City Council decides against merging utilitiesThe issue of whether the city of Hudson should merge its water and sewer utilities appears to have been laid to rest. Monday night, the City Council voted 4-1 to maintain the current structure of the two utilities.
By: Randy Hanson, Hudson Star-Observer
The issue of whether the city of Hudson should merge its water and sewer utilities appears to have been laid to rest.
Monday night, the City Council voted 4-1 to maintain the current structure of the two utilities. That is a water utility under the control of an appointed Public Utility Commission and a wastewater department that reports to the City Council.
Mayor Dean Knudson raised the possibility of combining the two utilities under the control of the City Council (among other alternatives) when the Public Utility Commission began searching for a water utility director to replace Dennis Christophersen, who died of a heart attack last December.
Knudson identified four ways of organizing the utilities in a report to the council’s Finance Committee last month.
Monday night, City Administrator Devin Willi provided the council with a report on how utilities are organized in 25 other Wisconsin cities in the same population range as Hudson.
“What we found is that there is not a specific type of structure more prevalent than the other,” Willi said.
He said officials in most of the cities said their utilities are structured like they are because that’s the way it has always been done.
Beaver Dam had combined its water and sewer utilities under one director after the retirement of a director, Willi said. And the Oconomowoc City Council had decided to take back control of both of its utilities.
Willi also noted that Hudson’s water and sewer utilities have always gotten high marks from state and federal regulating agencies, and that their rates are below average for the state.
Knudson reported that the majority opinion from the Finance Committee – comprised of himself and alderpersons Lee Wyland, Alan Burchill and Lori Bernard – was that the current structure of Hudson’s utilities should be maintained.
He said there was a minority opinion that an appointed commission should oversee the operation of the water utility, but that the City Council should make the personnel and financial decisions.
Bernard argued for greater council control over the water utility.
“I don’t know why we wouldn’t want that additional oversight,” she said.
She said the people making financial decisions for the city should be directly responsible to the voters.
Council President Randy Morrissette II characterized the effort to reorganize the water utility as a power grab.
“I’ve said it before. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Morrissette commented.
O’Malley moved to maintain the current utility structure and the motion was seconded by Morrissette. Wyland and Burchill also supported the motion. Bernard opposed it. Alderperson Pam Brokaw was absent.
O’Malley said that of the cities Willi researched, only two had lower water and sewer rates than Hudson. And one of those cities, Sun Prairie, has the same utility structure as Hudson, he said.