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Committee recommends providing water to Mercy

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Kayla Bunge
March 26, 2009
— Mercy Health System is one step closer to having access to the Williams Bay water system for service to Mercy Walworth Hospital and Medical Center, which is slated for expansion this summer.

Mercy Walworth sits on a parcel beyond village limits at the intersection of highways 50 and 67 in Geneva Township.


The village water and sewer committee Wednesday approved making a recommendation to the village board to begin negotiating an agreement to extend the village water system outside the existing service area to the facility.


The village also will have to create an ordinance that defines its water service area and stipulates what properties would be allowed to hook up to the system.


Plans call for expanding the existing Mercy Walworth Hospital and Medical Center from 60,000 square feet to almost 200,000 square feet to include additional hospital beds, a birthing center, an intensive care unit and an outpatient clinic.


Mercy gets its water from a well on the property. An expanded facility would overburden the well, which is why Mercy is seeking access to village water, said Ed Thompson, the attorney representing the health care provider.


"Obtaining service is a prerequisite for us going forward," he said. "We need this service in order to have those additional hospital beds at that facility."


Thomson said Mercy has had access to the Williams Bay sewer system since the original facility opened in 1994. The health care provider is hoping to reach a similar agreement for water, he said.


Mercy has said it will pay for the installation of more than 2 miles of pipe costing more than $1.5 million.


Mercy also has said it will pay a "premium" in addition to what a typical commercial water customer would pay.


Commercial customers already pay more for water services than residential customers, village officials explained.


Mercy would pay more still, village officials said.


Thompson said a "premium" would be spelled out in a contract between the village and the health care provider.


Elizabeth Cox of 33 Constance Blvd. asked if village taxpayers could expect a "firm guarantee" that they would not be burdened with additional costs as a result of extending the water system.


Committee member Don Parker said water service is a utility paid for by its customers. It is not a service provided under the property tax levy, he said.


Any additional costs, such as upgrades to the water treatment plant, would be borne by customers of the utility, not taxpayers, he said.


"This will not happen unless there are economics that make sense for both sides," Parker said.


Mercy Vice President Rich Gruber told The Janesville Gazette in February the $40 million expansion project is slated to begin in summer. Construction would take about 18 months, he said.



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