Thiensville prepared to help another subdivision with failing wells

Arsenic found in both Laurel Acres wells

April 4, 2012

Thiensville - The Village Board appears likely to offer the Laurel Acres Water Trust the same type of assistance it provided to help Century Estates 3 with its water problem but Village President Karl Hertz emphasized the board will not wade into the fray between two groups of residents in the Laurel Acres trust.

Meeting as a Committee of the Whole on Monday night, the board considered a resolution and agreement with Laurel Acres that would allow the village to be compensated for any expenses undertaken on behalf of the trust. Ultimately, the village borrowed money that allowed Century Estates to install water mains and get water from Mequon's Water Utility. The property owners in Century Estates were assessed their share of the costs of the project and will repay the village over 10 years.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has notified the Laurel Acres Water Trust that its wells are contaminated with arsenic.

Water Trustee Donald Carey said there are two wells in the trust, one which is slightly under the acceptable standard for arsenic and a second one which exceeds it.

Century Estates deal sought

On behalf of the water trust, Carey and its other two trustees, Kelly Krause and Carl Groth, asked the village for a deal similar to that provided Century Estates 3 when its wells were also found to be contaminated. Century Estates 3 is adjacent to Laurel Acres.

There are 92 homes in the Laurel Acres trust. Carey said that after exploring other options that would allow continued use of the wells, the trustees decided to let the homeowners vote on getting water from Mequon.

"Only 63 bothered to vote," he said. "Fifty three were for it and 12 were not."

Bill Hoppe, one of the 12, asked the board to wait before agreeing to the request.

"There is reasonable doubt as to whether due process was followed by the Water Trust," he said. "We don't want the trust to incur costs we have to pay."

James Kieckhefer told Hertz he had a duty to help resolve the issue in the water trust.

"You have no right to take their word," Kieckhefer said. "We want you to have proof they have the right to do this."

Hertz said the board has no right to get into the business of the trust.

"We are not going to sit here and adjudicate this," he said. "I don't have a duty regarding the operation of your co-op."

Hertz encouraged the members of the trust to sort out their differences before the next Village Board meeting on April 23. At that meeting the board will consider the resolution and agreement. At the request of Trustee John Treffert, the wording of both documents will be reviewed before the meeting.

Repair cost too steep for trust

After the meeting, Carey said that the trust would spend more than $100,000 if it does only the repairs required by the DNR.

"We simply don't have that money," he said. "The trust spent $60,000 this year repairing two broken pipes. At any given time, the most money the trust ever has is $100,000. We have insurance and maintenance costs that we pay from that. With the repairs, the cost is more than $100,000."

The estimated cost to install water mains in Laurel Acres is $864,800, with an estimated assessment of $9,400 per household if all costs are included in the assessment.

There was opposition to the Century Estates project when it was proposed but at a recent meeting about another proposed water main project in the village, a trustee of the Century Estates trust said most residents are now happy with the change. The water is cleaner and the subdivision has adequate water pressure, which was lacking with the wells.

Carey said the DNR is waiting to see if the trust is able to connect to Mequon Water before forcing it to make repairs.

"If we miss this summer's digging season, we will have to make them," he said.


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