Today is

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Past City Growth Elevated Danger On Thousands

Monday's Janesville city council meeting was another job well done by the city administration and council. The council rammed through a water rate increase of 15% based on less demand for the stuff resulting from the closure of the GM factory. But the water utility's presentation didn't get interesting until the Janesville Utilities Director, Dan Lynch, started explaining his request for another water tower to be built on the city's North-East side.
JG Excerpt:
We're not talking about the future. We're talking about right now. When we have a major main break, we really don't have water for anything." -- Lynch
The utilities director went on to describe how the lack of water pressure can inhibit firefighters and also increase bacteria in the water system. And that we have already had up to eight instances occur since he knew about the problem. How long ago was he aware of this? Since 2005. How many folks have been effected? Up to 30,000 people. Yet, during all of the requests for annexation and building permits on the north and northeast sections of Janesville over the past several years, I don't recall Lynch even once stand at the podium and urge the council to deny any builders request in that area based on 'public endangerment.' Not once. The only recommendation coming from the city administration was "the parcel is consistent with the city's comprehensive growth plan." But now they need a water tower for further growth, so let's play up the public danger and see where that takes us. If we believe Lynch right now, then we should take him to task for his dereliction of duty (silence) during requests for growth development over the past four years. He knew lives were at stake, and by his own words now, even one time was too many.

But there are even more conflicting statements from the utility director that were left unchallenged by the city council. For instance, he explained Janesville was divided into two water service sectors (north and south) and for that reason the additional capacity expected from GM closing (south side, lower elevation) would not help the north side. Yet no discussion was given for the northeast quadrant to use the NW water tower (Hendricks) to shore up additional pressure requirements needed during those few low pressure emergencies. Perhaps this is why they want to connect the East and West side pipes. So why a water tower? Remember, the request for another tower has nothing to do with future growth according to Lynch, the "big pipes" supply the volume, additional pressure is only needed during a few random events. Which brings me to the heart of the situation.

After a quick search on Google Earth, it appears most of the city of Janesville stands at 825 ft. - 875 ft. elevations excluding the immediate Rock River valley, which is at or below 800 ft. The Hendricks property has elevations soaring to as high as 975 ft. and the only other area above 900 ft. is north of the I90 curve on the farthest NE side. The existing development north of I90 was built on land in the 910 ft. to 940ft. range with hundreds of vacant farm acres left to develop in those upper elevations. For no other reason than the high elevations (compared to base utility elevations), sprawl cannot continue without a static pressure facility such as a water tower. Without a water tower, additional sprawl can't be fed. That is the only obstacle blocking the fortunes of developers in the near future. Yet, the city administration refuses to charge land owners and developers encumbered by these elevations for the special water facility (tower). It then becomes more obvious the only reason to request a NE tower is for "growth-prepareness." They are at their low pressure limit right now.

Since they don't seem to be in any hurry (according to them) and they used fire safety and bacteria contamination as the alarm bell in the run-up for the NE tower, it becomes apparent that the city administration and council have been and continue to endanger Janesville lives every time they approve of a home or commercial building permit for the NE side. Although Lynch knew about this years ago, Monday was the day of 'discovery' for all of us to learn of the danger further growth on the North side presents. Of course I don't believe the so-called danger warrants a new water tower, but this is the administration's deception. So they have to believe it and all of the consequences it may bare.

Council members Truman and McDonald were the only ones to read through some of the smoke and mirrors on the water rate increase and tower project. Unfortunately, they split their votes on the two issues but at least they matched their rhetoric with their votes. Still, it's not enough.

Capital improvements for the benefit of developers have been socialized by us, the city then must satisfy a minimum rate of return with the higher value principal, thus compounding the increases. Water rates will continue to go up. Obviously then, sprawl never pays for itself - we all pay. If you don't have Google Earth, you can download it here. Highly recommended!


Anonymous said...

And the PSC is a sham. Instead of standing up and defending the public consumer on these issues, they stand on the growth side of developers and local governments. I guarantee the PSC will approve everything the city asks for.

Anonymous said...

The City is requesting grant/loan money from the DNR for this project - the loan application is due on April 30th. Stimulus money may be available, but that is not the point - who ever the money comes from, it is still US, you and I that are paying for it. Contact the DNR.

Lou Kaye said...

What Lynch did was take the chance officials and pols always take when they either do as they’re told, or talk too much. It never makes up for the times they stood silent. And his disclosure would not go unchecked if Janesville had a legitimate newspaper.

Anonymous said...

I bet story done by julie b. she is taken lession from briarmoon

Lou Kaye said...

You'd lose. I can assure you this story was not written by Julie B., and there was absolutely no collaboration on any of its content. If it was, it would have her name on it or contain a disclosure.

Whether she is taking lessons from Briarmoon, you'd have to ask her. But my bet is - you are.

Anonymous said...

Last time I checked, this was a democratic society. Whenever someone speaks up against government - some people view that as bad - the ones that don't have the ability to make a statement - publicly. If you don't agree with something, then voice your opinion - to the council - not the paper's blog, or here.

Post a Comment