Healy and WI Institute For Law And Liberty Ask PSC For Final Streetcar Ruling

City of Milwaukee Ready To Take Legal Action?

MacIver News Service | September 27, 2013

[Madison, Wisc…] The City of Milwaukee is not ready to back down if the Wisconsin Public Service Commission decides it cannot pass the cost of moving underground utility lines onto the utility companies in order to make room for 2.1 mile long street car line.

If Milwaukee is allowed to force utilities to pay the cost of moving those lines, it would be passed onto ratepayers living outside of Milwaukee. Effectively people who don’t live in Milwaukee would be paying for Milwaukee’s streetcar.

MacIver Institute President, Brett Healy, brought this issue to the Public Service Commission two years ago. Healy, represented in the matter by Richard M. Esenberg and Thomas C. Kamenick of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, requested a declaratory judgment that the City of Milwaukee will be responsible for paying for the costs associated with moving utility facilities underneath the proposed Milwaukee Streetcar route.

From the original petition:

“There is nothing about the existence or location of these facilities which threatens the public health, safety or welfare. The only reason that they have to be moved is construction of the Milwaukee Streetcar line. This cannot constitute an “adequate health, safety or public welfare justification” as a matter of law. Such a justification must involve, at minimum, an exercise of the City’s police power. Building and operating a street car is not such an exercise.”

Since then, state lawmakers included a provision in the 2013-15 budget that will not allow Milwaukee to pass that cost on.

The motion, proposed by Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield), made it clear cities must pay utility relocation costs to accomodate urban rail transit systems.

On Tuesday, Healy and affected utility companies asked the PSC to rule on the Milwaukee case based on current state law. Milwaukee’s lawyer in the case has since hinted the city will appeal if the PSC rules against it.

See the motion here.