Church fights City of Pewaukee over water runoff dues

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by Lane Kimble

PEWAUKEE -- When Spring Creek Baptist Church first tried to Pewaukee from Milwaukee in 1994, church leaders tell CBS-58 someone from the city said,  "We don't want a black church here."  Twenty years later, the church feels like it's still being discriminated against.

"Enough is enough," church finance chair Tom Stricker said.  "We're going to fight this.  This sense of sadness really kind of permeates the entire congregation.  None of us want to be at this point."

The city and Waukesha County are foreclosing on the church.  The reason: unpaid water runoff fees dating back to 2010 that total close to $40,000.

"The City of Pewaukee has internal documents where they acknowledge our property does not provide any storm water to  the Pewaukee storm water system," Stricker said.

Pewaukee considers the church a "user", but the church argues its $300,000 retention pond makes them self sufficient.

"Here they are being charged a user fee for a system the city admits they don't use," church attorney Tom Halloran said.  "When [the city is] asked, 'Why are you doing this?  How does it come about,'  they're giving no explanation at all."

City leaders say they're simply enforcing what the DNR requires them to.


"[Runoff] absolutely costs many millions of dollars to meet the requirements the department has put into place," city attorney Stan Riffle said.

Pewaukee city leaders say the DNR required municipalities to create storm water elimination systems in the 2000s.  Because the church covers close to 600,000 square-feet of paved area, it needs to pay its share --  a ruling the state Public Service Commission upheld last year.

"Cities have to figure out a fair way to pay for those mandates and you try to place the cost fairly on every  property owner," Riffle said.  "That was what's done here."

The PSC's informal report does recommend the city offer the church the largest possible discount of 40 percent.  That would cut annual payments to around $8,000, but the church thinks those payments are still unfair.

"How much that surface runoff area contributes to the city storm water," Halloran said.  "Well, that's zero."

The church's lawyer filed a petition in Waukesha County Court Monday morning opposing the foreclosure.  The church might also work to file discrimination charges against the city for "years of intimidation and harassment."

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