Bayside — For about two months, six households on Seneca and Navajo roads had to make do after the infrastructure of their water trust gave out. Again.
So when municipal water finally made it down the street in July it meant the triumphant end to their failing shared well. It also meant the end of what they had jokingly referred to as "the garden hose bypass," a rubbery stand-in for a water main which had snaked out from the well, through a few back yards, and onto hose spigots after one of the trust's mains had blown up in May.
"It was cathartic when the last home hooked up to city water," recalls the head of the twelve-home trust and city water advocate Howard Feiges. "I was very happy that day, because no more could that thing torment me. I knew that we were safe."
Feiges' home, among 40 percent of all homes in the village, the Shul synagogue, and redeveloped Sendik's were all brought into the Mequon Water Utility in 2013 as the first phase of Bayside's voluntary municipal water project concluded. Years in the making, the combined efforts of grassroots organizers like Feiges, village staff and impassioned homeowners helped the scope of the project spread further and further throughout the village.
"It was a big thing for the people who were involved in the trusts," Village Manager Andy Pederson says, "and it blossomed into something bigger than anyone could have imagined."
A long road
Feiges himself imagined it for the first time in 2006 when he took over as head of the 12-home North Way 1 water trust. City water, he dreamed, without the constant problems and pricey fixes of the 60-year-old water trust infrastructure, without the hard minerals, low pressure and rusty pipes.
But it was an impossible task, difficult to organize and impossibly expensive with only 12 households to bear the cost.
"We had so many issues with our water trust failing all the time," Feiges says. "The only way a city water project would work is if we had the whole neighborhood doing it. It was a very daunting challenge."
The project truly solidified when Feiges and his trust met with village staff and officials for the first time in early 2011 to talk details. As the talks continued the other trusts in the area began to take note, and as the new water was charted past their homes, sign up. To the east, 29 homes, and to the west, 37, and on and on.
When all was said and done, the Bayside Water Access Association was 148 homes strong.
"A voluntary public works project like this is kind of unprecedented," Feiges says. "It just doesn't happen."
The success of the project and widespread sign-ups, financed with the borrowing power of the village, were a major money saver. The original napkin math had a per home cost north of $16,000, Feiges says, and the village authorized special assessments on benefiting properties up to $12,000.
But when the costs were finally tallied, the per home cost was about $6,200 on the low side for those who pre-paid and about $8,900 for those financing out 20 years.
As an added benefit, the parts of the village with municipal water now have fire hydrants every 500 feet, greatly improving fire protection, Pederson says.
The successes of the first phase, paired with the frustrations of well water, were enough for Penny Goldman — whose home was just outside the project area of phase one —to spearhead a second phase of the municipal water project.
Like Feiges was in 2012, Goldman and village staff are surveying the community to gauge interest before moving into preliminary planning.
Linked on the village website is an online interest survey, which is available in paper form at Village Hall and by request.
As was the case with phase one, the per home cost will be a result of how many homeowners decide to sign up.
"Anyone can have water," Goldman says. "It just depends at what cost. I think to have it cost effective for families, 80 percent of a street would have to sign on."
Goldman and Pederson say that if things go according to plan the survey will be complete by late winter, the project will be designed and bid in time for construction season 2015.
"We need to know where people stand, what their interest is," Goldman says, "and then we can proceed from there."
BY THE NUMBERS
homes now with municipal water in Bayside
percent of village with municipal water
high/low cost per home, depending on financing
TAKE THE SURVEY: survey
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