Germantown officials discuss who should pay for ditch enclosures

Sept. 17, 2013

Germantown — The Germantown Village Board on Monday had a lengthy debate on how much, if any, they should contribute to enclosing ditches fronting six properties on Crestview Drive.

The motion to do a 50/50 cost share with residents to enclose ditches in the Forest Heights subdivision was struck down in a 8-1 vote with Trustee Terri Kaminski voting for the cost share.

Six residents from the subdivision, with properties on Crestview Drive between Martin Drive on the west and Forest Drive on the east, presented a petition to the village on Aug. 21, asking for the ditches in front of their properties to be enclosed. The steeper ditch slopes were a result of road reconstruction work completed on Crestview Drive in 2012.

"The ditches have been left unsafe to maintain and unsightly since the road work was completed in 2012," reads the petition. "As the ditches currently exist there is no outlet for accumulating water to drain."

Village Engineer Brionne Bischke said the Engineering Department does not oppose closing the ditches and would issue permits to petitioners to perform the work themselves. However, Village Board approval is necessary if the village covers any of the costs. The second phase of road reconstruction in the Forest Heights subdivision is planned on Forest Drive in 2014. Since a contractor will already be in the area, the ditch enclosures would fit into that project should the Village Board choose to take up part of the cost.

The cost to close a ditch is $31 per linear foot. Assuming the two projects are bundled, the total cost to fix the six ditches is estimated at $53,500, according to village documents.

Ditches are historically only closed at the village's expense when design criteria could not be followed, which Bischke said is not the case on Crestview Drive. Still, residents say the ditches are wider, deeper and steeper than necessary, stay saturated for longer periods of time and are difficult to mow and maintain.

Village trustees were hesitant to approve a cost share for fear it will set a precedent. There are steeper ditches in the Happy Hollow subdivision that were the result of road work, as well, Trustee Al Vanderheiden said.

"You can have homes there come forward at some point," he said. "There are many, many homes in this village that have deeper ditches."

Though the cost share was voted down, Village President Dean Wolter said the issue will be revisited as the board begins to work through the 2014 budgets and respective projects.

"I'm not against fixing some of these ditches. What I am against is we are starting to come to a budget year and we are considering this ahead of everything else," Wolter said.

He said he wants to take a look at the budget as whole, as well as the Engineering Department's budget before any money is allocated to ditch work.

"It may work out that it's taken care (of), maybe part of it, or maybe 50/50, but I think it should be judged as a whole for 2014, not as a separate item today," Wolter said. "I'm not saying 'no,' I'm saying 'not at this time.'"

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