BERLIN — When Mayor Dave Ament sat before a state legislative
committee earlier this month, he said a complaint process skewed
against New Berlin and other communities makes it nearly
impossible to overturn Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District
Berlin is among 10 communities that contract with MMSD for
sewerage services. Sewer rates in those communities are set by
MMSD, and if the rates imposed are too high, community leaders
have the option to use an appeals process through the Public
Service Commission of Wisconsin.
state statute says when the PSC investigates a complaint regarding
MMSD rules, rates or practices, it must give deference
MMSD or any other service commission, and assume the rates are
unique presumption of reasonableness greatly tilts the scale
toward MMSD when attempting to resolve complaints,” Ament said.
proposed bill working its way through the Wisconsin Senate seeks
to “even the playing field” for MMSD contract communities,
said bill sponsor Sen. Dave Craig, RTown of Vernon. The
legislation would eliminate from state law the deference given to
MMSD during PSC investiga tions. The bill would also stop MMSD
from disconnecting services to a contract community without prior
approval from the PSC.
bill is really just about fairness. There are 10 contract
communities that contract with Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage
District, but they are not part of the district so they have a
limited voice on decisions made,” said state Rep. Mike Kuglitsch,
R-New Berlin, who sponsored a companion bill in the Assembly.
“All this does is make the playing field even, so that when a
contract community has an issue that they can go to the PSC and it
starts with an unbiased, level playing field.”
utilities aren’t required to go through a standard rate case
process with the PSC when raising costs, so large sewer utilities
like MMSD can raise rates as they see fit and contract communities
don’t have a say until afterward, through the appeals process.
legislation, SB 697, was passed 3 to 2 by the Senate Committee on
Elections and Utilities on Feb. 1. A companion bill passed the
Assembly floor unanimously last month by a voice vote. Craig said
he expects the legislation to be signed into law this session.
bill had started as four pages that called for more extensive
changes in the complaint process,
MMSD took issue with it, Craig said. The abridged bill is a
compromise and MMSD has come out as neutral on it.
did not respond to a request for comment by press time Friday.
any other proceeding in court there’s no presumption, you know,
guilty versus innocent,” Craig said. “So there should be no
presumption of correctness (in PSC investigations.) The PSC should
look at all information and make a fair judgment based on what’s
about twothirds of New Berlin is served by MMSD, and as the city
establishes its budget for all sewer utility customers throughout
the city, the local rates are driven by charges imposed by MMSD,
Ament said at the committee hearing.
Berlin hasn’t appealed a rate increase yet, but it seems that
may be on the horizon if the bill is passed.
have been brewing between New Berlin and MMSD about this and other
concerns. It’s been on a slow boil,” Craig said. “I think
it’s clear they think they haven’t been treated fairly and
when we started looking at this, it was pretty clear that the
statute doesn’t treat them fairly.”
wasn’t available for comment on Thursday or Friday.
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