The city of Onalaska Thursday proposed a 20-year sewer agreement with the city of La Crosse, which would take effect after its previous agreement ends at the end of the year. The agreement, which will need to be reviewed and negotiated by the two municipalities, would run from 2020 to 2040; however, it doesn’t change Onalaska’s commitment to creating the La Crosse Area Metropolitan District, said city administrator Eric Rindfleisch said.
“We still believe quite frankly that the metropolitan district provides most of the solutions to problems we think that exist,” Rindfleisch said.
However, the municipality is waiting for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to evaluate the request and set a public hearing, and officials didn’t want to be left without an agreement when the current contract is up.
“Our hope is to have a long-term agreement in place so that both parties can move forward,” Rindfleisch said.
There are some differences between the current and proposed agreement.
“Our proposal right now does add the connection fee that La Crosse has been asking for,” said Rindfleisch; however, Onalaska is suggesting that fee be set at $382, rather than the $730 requested by La Crosse. Onalaska’s number is based off of La Crosse utility studies and financial statements, Rindfleisch said, but adds in variables connected to depreciation of equipment and the use of excess capacity.
Onalaska also asked La Crosse to re-evaluate that number every five years as part of the agreement.
“We wish to continue to cooperate and work together and reach a successful agreement for all of these issues, and I think the proposal does that,” Rindfleisch said.
Approving the agreement wouldn’t prevent Onalaska from moving forward with the metropolitan sewerage district, he said, and if all parties can’t find a compromise, that would be a reason to create the district.
While La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat was unavailable to comment Thursday, he has repeatedly spoken out against the sewerage district.
“I do think it’s a solution in search of a problem, because we have such an excellent sewer utility that provides such great service, and we have some of the lowest rates in the state and have managed all our assets quite well,” Kabat told the Tribune in December.