Residents question leadership on flooding
Board allocates $50,000 for study of village's infrastructure
July flood victims frustrated with the village's progress in finding the reasons for the devastating flooding and basement backups that damaged more than 700 Bay homes are again voicing a lack of confidence in village staff and officials.
The Village Board voted Monday to seek bids for a consulting engineer to begin a study of the areas with the most damage, but before the vote, trustees got an earful from residents.
"I am not happy with the flood response," resident Barbara Dineen said. "I attended two (flood) meetings in Shorewood, and they have such a different approach. You need to send out a mailer to determine the number of homes that were flooded, and I would like a meeting on the sewers, to understand how the system works."
Resident Robert Crawford said the meetings in Shorewood included a PowerPoint presentation and maps on the walls that showed flooded areas.
"The map on our website is not updated," he said. "I submitted with my flood information twice and it's still not on the map."
Crawford said he was disappointed by the lack of new information on the village website. Village staff promised that answers to questions raised at an Aug. 2 board meeting would be posted as answers became available. Some questions were answered Aug. 3, but since then there had been little progress until the site was updated following this week's meeting.
Some residents doubt the village has the ability to guide them through the days and months ahead.
"I had six feet (of water) in my basement on July 15, and 10 feet on July 22," said Meredith Scrivner. "It all came from the storm sewer. We are out of our house until Thanksgiving. If village staff were doing its job properly, none of us would have to know anything about sewers. The village is being very poorly served by its leadership."
Sewer inspections needed
Resident Michael Utzinger urged village staff to take the time to prepare a request for proposals that would allow Whitefish Bay to get the answers it needs from a consultant. "We need to figure out how clear water is getting into the sanitary sewer system," said Utzinger, an engineer.
Utzinger nodded in approval when Assistant Village Engineer Aaron Jahncke said staff planned to spend three to four weeks working on those questions before going out for bids.
Jahncke said the village is busy inspecting the sanitary sewers in those areas hardest hit by the flooding, sending a television camera into them to determine if they have cracks or have collapsed, allowing rain water to get inside. He said the village likely will seek a hydraulic study of the sanitary sewers to help pinpoint causes for the flooding.
"We will look at both public and private infrastructure," he said.
Look at MMSD study?
Crawford suggested reviewing a 2000 report done by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District that called for improvements in Whitefish Bay.
"Those were never done because of politics at MMSD," he charged, urging Village President Kathleen Pritchard to talk to MMSD about the report.
Some were so unhappy that they stayed at Monday's meeting until 11 p.m., when the Village Board went into closed session to discuss Village Manager Jim Grassman's 2009 performance evaluation.
By waiting until that point in the agenda, residents were able to comment on what they believe were shortcomings in Grassman's leadership during the July flooding.
After the meeting, Pritchard noted that the board is evaluating Grassman's 2009 performance. The evaluation typically leads to a decision on the manager's salary for the following year, she said.
The board discussed the evaluation but took no action Monday.
The board did move $50,000 from the contingency fund to hire a consultant for a study and authorized the village staff to seek bids for it.
Trustees said this is the first of many steps that will be taken to prevent future flooding and basement backups.
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