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Milwaukee Street plans changed

Delafield council approves shorter, less-expensive plan

Nov. 21, 2012

City of Delafield - Plans to reconstruct and widen Milwaukee Street from the downtown business district east to near Lake Nagawicka were scrapped by the Common Council on Monday night, Nov. 19, in favor of a shorter and less-expensive road project. It remains to be seen whether the new plan will be less controversial.

Milwaukee Street will be widened and reconstructed from Oneida Street east to Oak Street, according to a compromise proposal offered by Alderman Jim Behrend that was unanimously approved by the council.

The compromise is about one-fourth the distance of the original plan, which was nearly three quarters of a mile long.

The cost of the project will be cut from $900,000 to $450,000.

Behrend persuaded his fellow council members to postpone the widening and reconstruction of Milwaukee Street from Oak Street east to Milwaukee and Main streets, near the southeastern shoreline of Lake Nagawicka.

The original reconstruction proposal, which has been under consideration for more than a year, encountered stiff opposition from residents living along the street who objected to the number of trees that would be destroyed as a result of the project.

They also questioned the wisdom of replacing a natural ditch and culvert stormwater drainage system with concrete curbs and gutters along the road. The residents argued the harder-surfaced system would increase the amount of silt and pollution flowing into the lake.

The city Public Works Committee had recommended the installation of the curb-and-gutter system. Otherwise, the engineers argued, the ditches and culverts would have to be moved as the street was widened, resulting in the destruction of more trees.

Widening the street and adding a sidewalk, the engineers argued, was necessary to protect pedestrians and bicyclists as well as improve stormwater drainage.

The project generated some of the sharpest debate among council members in recent months.

Alderwoman Michele DeYoe failed in an effort to have it removed from the 2013 capital budget.

"I am not comfortable with this because of the way it has been presented, the amount of money it costs and the opposition to it," she said.

But Alderman Gerald MacDougall said, "I think I have had more calls on this than any other issues since I have been in the council, and most of the people who have contacted me have said they want Milwaukee Street fixed as soon as possible."

Alderman Tim Aicher said he received an email a few hours before the council meeting from a constituent emphasizing the need to widen the street in order to protect bikers and hikers.

"The person who sent the email suggested that everyone who uses Milwaukee Street should try to think about what it would be like to walk on that street with a 3-year-old on your shoulders. In a nutshell, that summarizes the thought process I have given this project," Aicher concluded.

Much of the road travels through Alderman Jane Lazynski's Third District. She, too, said she had heard from residents complaining about the number of trees that would be destroyed, but she added that she is also concerned about the public safety.

She voted against DeYoe's amendment to scrap the project but supported Behrend's compromise.

Behrend's compromise is not likely to ease concerns about the estimated 57 trees that might still be destroyed or damaged.

Many of the trees that would be destroyed in the original plan are also in jeopardy in the Behrend proposal, according to City Engineer Mike Court.

However, the natural ditch and culvert drainage system along the road is preserved from Oak Street east to the near the lake, according to Court. That natural system will have to be improved in the future, he added.

Behrend's compromise was apparently based more on fiscal than environmental issues.

He suggested that the eastern portion of the road was in good enough shape that new construction could be postponed.

He argued that now is not the time to add to city debt, because the largest debt service levies for paying off the newly constructed downtown local government will occur in the next three to five years.

Furthermore, he argued, the city was perhaps spending money too fast on overall street improvements, considering levy increases that are likely to occur to pay debt services and other expenses.

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