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Bay considers fencing in water tower

Village wants to limit access to nonauthorized personnel

Oct. 3, 2012

Whitefish Bay - The village may build a fence around part or all of the water tower in the coming year.

The Village Board debated the merits of adding a fence Monday, weighing the concerns of security, upkeep, safety and access for wireless carriers who lease space on the tower for their equipment.

Ultimately, the board decided to look into the possibility of adding a fence, working with the Little League to decide how much of the area around the tower should be accessible, and perhaps planting grass or paving the area to get rid of the loose rocks and gravel which surround the tower now.

Whatever the decision, the work wouldn't take place until next year.

"If you're interested in revisiting this, let us take a look at the park again," Village Manager Patrick DeGrave told the board, "and take a look at what other alternatives there are."

Wireless carriers change gear

The discussion on whether to fence in around the tower centered around a number of goals: first, that in keeping with other municipalities, the village keeps its water supply secure; second, that the village preserve the approximately $1 million refurbishing and repainting of the water tower by preventing children from climbing on and throwing rocks at the tower; third, and most important according to Village Attorney Chris Jaekels, the village be able to control when wireless carriers access the tower to do maintenance on their equipment.

Jaekels said that at least one carrier has sent workers onto the tower and changed out equipment over the years without speaking with the village first, and without updating its lease to reflect more recent market rates.

"Unless we have a fence around it, we can't be sure who is going up there and swapping out equipment, and limiting that," Jaekels said. "We're trying to amend our leases now to say that every time someone wants to go on the tower they have to call us and we have to come out there and unlock it, but we need something to unlock."

He added that with village supervision the installation of unauthorized or potentially damaging equipment could be stopped as well. Board members suggested that a fence could go up around only the access ladder to the tower, leaving the rest of the area accessible.

Trustee Lauri Rollings said she would be in favor of a fence if it kept kids from climbing the tower.

"Given the proximity to the Little League field it concerns me that there's no fence from keeping kids from climbing on the water tower legs," said Rollings.

Keeping water safe

Trustee James Roemer didn't agree about keeping kids off the tower, but said the security of the tower needs to be considered.

"(Playing at the tower) is relatively safe. It's removed from the parking lot, and if you take that away the kids are going to migrate closer to the cars, which isn't safe," Roemer said. "The most compelling concern I would say is keeping the water supply safe."

The board agreed to work with the Little League to figure out how accessible the area should be to children, how to remove rocks from the area so kids can't throw them at the tower, and whether the access ladder or the whole tower should be fenced in. A current village proposal includes $20,000 for the cost of an ornamental fence, though DeGrave said any plan could be changed to use a less costly chain link version.

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