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City has authority to extend utilities to County Road UU school site

It’s within the city of Hudson’s legal authority to extend water and sewer service to a possible school site on County UU in the town of Hudson, the City Council was told Monday night.

City Attorney Catherine Munkittrick first delivered the opinion in a memorandum to council members dated Oct. 16, and followed up with comments at the council meeting.

The Hudson Board of Education had asked the city to determine if it was within its legal authority to deliver utility service to property about a mile outside of its boundaries. The school board wanted to know before proceeding with a costly study to determine the technical feasibility of extending the utilities.

Munkittrick said the council would have to amend the City Code to allow water service to be extended outside of the city boundaries. And extending sewer service would require a change in what has been the city’s policy and practice, she said.

But several Wisconsin Statutes authorize a city to extend water and sewer service outside of its limits, Munkittrick said.

One of the statutes, Wis. Stat. 66.0813 (4), explicitly names educational purposes as a reason for furnishing utility service outside of a city’s corporate limits.

“It is totally within your discretion, really,” Munkittrick told the council.

She added that the city wouldn’t be obligated to provide the service to any other property than the school site, and that the Hudson Town Board would have to give its approval if town residents wanted to hook up to the utilities.

She cautioned that once the decision is made to extend utilities, the city is committed to providing the service to the property. The only cause for discontinuance would be nonpayment of bills.

In her memorandum to council members, Munkittrick wrote that if the city decides to extend utilities to the property, it should have an agreement with the school district requiring it to pay all the costs associated with the extension and continued maintenance of the infrastructure.

City Development Director Dennis Darnold cautioned that the legal opinion wasn’t a green light for the city to proceed with the extensions. He said there are other steps the city will need to take, and any one of them could halt the extensions.

Alderperson John Hoggatt said it would come down to whether it is technically and financially feasible to extend service to the property.

“Technically, it is going to be a huge deal,” Hoggatt said, adding that from what he’s heard, it might not be feasible.

Hoggatt asked if the school district needed to know if the city was willing to extend the utilities before proceeding with the feasibility study.

Alderperson Lori Bernard said the council needs to know if it is technically feasible before making that commitment.

“My question would be, do they want to build on UU or not?” said Alderperson Mary Yacoub. She said she also wants to know how the extensions would affect the city’s water and sewer utilities.

Alderpersons Hoggatt and Randy Morrissette II indicated they would favor extending utilities to the potential school site if it is technically feasible.

Tim Erickson, the school district’s financial services director, attended the meeting.

He said the school board wanted to know if it was legally possible to extend utilities to the UU property before making a decision on whether to proceed with the technical study.

“Certainly, there is interest to know if you would change policy,” Erickson allowed.

He said the school board would decide at its next meeting whether to proceed with the technical study.

Addressing Yacoub’s question, Erickson said the board hasn’t decided on a site for a planned new secondary school. It is still exploring the UU site, he said.

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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