Why are we thinking of switching from the Oak Creek Water Utility for our water supply?
Access to clean water is critical to our growth and development as a community. As we look to the future, we need to ensure water, one of our best assets, continues to meet Franklin’s needs. It’s important to look at ways to stabilize rates long-term, ensure our water supply is safe and meets quality standards.
Will this change apply to all residents and businesses in Franklin?
This change would only apply to customers of the Franklin Water Utility. Any residents or other properties using private wells will not be impacted.
How long has Franklin been getting its water from Oak Creek?
We started receiving our water from the Oak Creek Water Utility 25 years ago. The contract we signed at the time expires in 5 years.
Is there a difference between the rates that customers pay in Oak Creek and Franklin?
Yes. Oak Creek has two sets of rates. One set is for their retail customers (properties within Oak Creek) and one set is for their wholesale customers (Franklin and Caledonia). Franklin purchases wholesale water from Oak Creek, then adds charges to cover the Franklin infrastructure and delivery to Franklin properties. Oak Creek retail customers pay less for water than what the wholesale customers pay. The biggest customer pays the most for the same product.
If the contract with Oak Creek doesn’t end for another five years, why are you looking at the contract now?
Making a decision now ensures any infrastructure updates can be made well in advance of the current agreement expiring. By acting now we’ll be able to meet all water needs of residents and business well into the future while delivering on our commitment to stabilize rates long-term.
What options have you considered in this process?
The Water Utility considered various options to lower our wholesale water costs. Franklin has some of the highest water rates in the state We reviewed proposals from the Racine Water Utility, Milwaukee Water Utility and a potential contract extension with the Oak Creek Water Utility. During that time, we’ve conducted an extensive evaluation of these possibilities with the goal of identifying the best option that provides long-term reliability, quality, safety and affordability.
What are the main aspects of your evaluation process?
Our focus remains on maintaining water quality, reliability of service, and stable and competitive rates. Ultimately, we want to ensure Franklin water customers have access to the best and most reasonably priced water source.
Is Milwaukee water really that much cheaper than Oak Creek?
Yes, it is roughly half of the cost. Oak Creek charges Franklin $3.12/thousand gallons wholesale while Milwaukee’s wholesale rate is $1.65/thousand gallons.
When will a decision be made about a new contract for Franklin’s water?
The Franklin Water Utility is working toward a decision by the end of 2019. Look for regular updates on our progress toward a new contract on our website. Ultimately, we want to ensure you have access to the best and most reasonably priced water source.
What is the impact on water rates if you change to Milwaukee?
The Milwaukee option offers long-term stability in water rates for Franklin customers. When we signed the agreement 25 years ago, Oak Creek projected their wholesale water rates would be similar to Milwaukee’s at this point of time. Today, Oak Creek’s wholesale rates are 61% higher than the City of Milwaukee’s.
Does that mean Franklin customers will see a rate reduction?
The savings we achieve with a Milwaukee Water Works contract will initially be used to pay for the water connection from Milwaukee to Franklin. Franklin Water Utility customers can expect long-term stability in their water rates. We anticipate the change will enable our rates to remain stable well into the future.
What would have to be done to change from Oak Creek to Milwaukee for our future water services?
The Milwaukee option will include a major pipe connection from Milwaukee to Franklin. The overall cost of this line is covered through the savings achieved from reduced wholesale costs to purchase Milwaukee water. The result is long-term stabilization of Franklin’s water rates and an infrastructure to meet continued business and residential growth in the community well into the future. We will also need approval from the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin.
You keep saying rates will be more stable. What does that mean?
Being the largest wholesale customer of the Oak Creek Water Utility we naturally are charged the largest portion of any improvement and that changes our rates substantially. Being a relatively small wholesale customer of Milwaukee means that any additional charges would impact us far less.
Who will pay for the connecting pipe from Franklin to Milwaukee?
The Franklin Water Utility will construct and pay for the pipe. The savings we achieve through the lower water rates with Milwaukee will enable us to pay for the costs required to connect with the Milwaukee Water Utility.
Where will the connecting pipe be located in Franklin?
The specific route will be determined as a part of future analysis and studies conducted by the Franklin Water Utility.
What will change with my water bill?
You can anticipate long-term stability with your water rates. While the water rates will be similar to what you’re charged now. The amount of your water bill depends upon how much water you use.
Will a change in water suppliers affect my sewage bill?
No. The Sewer and Water Departments are separate utilities. Your sewage bill is determined through the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD), who we use as the sewage treatment provider. The Water Utility sets rates for your water service only. MMSD has no connection to the Water Utility and your sewage bill will not be affected by any decision on Franklin's water supplier.
Why has the city of Franklin opposed the Oak Creek proposal for a $30 million upgrade to the water treatment facility, which would include ultraviolet light disinfection as an added safety measure?
When Oak Creek proposed a $30 million upgrade, the Wisconsin Public Service Commission evaluation estimated a 30 percent increase in rates. In the past, Oak Creek has charged large wholesale customers proportionately higher rates to minimize rate increases for their retail customers. Since Franklin is the largest wholesale customer, buying 40% of Oak Creek’s water, our customers would face a large increase in their water rates. A number of engineering studies estimated Oak Creek could implement the ultraviolet system for significantly less ($10 million). On at least two occasions the Public Service Commission has denied Oak Creek’s spending plans.
Will there be any concerns with Milwaukee’s water quality?
No. Lake Michigan is the source of water for the Oak Creek Water Utility and Milwaukee Water Utility. Milwaukee’s water safety systems use a sophisticated and effective technology providing high quality water that meets or exceeds all state and federal regulatory requirements.
The City of Milwaukee has been dealing with lead in that community’s water. Won’t that affect Franklin?
No. Milwaukee’s lead pipe issue deals with the pipes from that city’s mains to the homes, not the distribution system that Franklin would use to connect with the Milwaukee Water Utility plant. The cost of fixing Milwaukee’s lead lateral issues will not be included in the rates for Franklin.
How would you characterize the interactions with Oak Creek and Milwaukee?
Milwaukee views us as a valued partner and during conversations it is clear that they are more interested in finding a solution that reflects a view of Franklin being a valued customer than that of being just another customer. We have found the Milwaukee water utility more closely aligned with our priorities, particularly a solution for long term stability in rates.
Who do I contact if I have questions or want more information?
If you have questions as our process continues, please contact our Engineering Department at 414-425-7510.