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Cops may be used to help inspect homes for sewers

Staff to issue warrants to gain access to Beach Drive properties

June 9, 2010

Fox Point — Inspectors accompanied by police officers could be sent to about a dozen homes on Beach Drive because their owners are refusing to allow the village to look at the sewer hookups in those residences.

As part of a capital improvement project, Fox Point is reviewing all private and public properties on Beach Drive - a street lined with homes valued at $500,000 or more - to determine whether there are any improper or illegal connections to the sanitary sewer system.

Director of Public Works Scott Brandmeier said letters seeking permission to enter the residences have been sent on numerous occasions.

An initial letter was sent in February to all Beach Drive residents asking for permission to conduct a voluntary inspection. The village followed up in April with a second letter sent via certified mail. One final letter was sent two weeks ago.

"There are still a handful of residents that have not allowed entry or have not responded," Village Attorney Eric Larson said.

As a last resort, the village is considering obtaining a special warrant to perform inspections at those 12 to 15 homes.

"We don't have any specific information on any of these properties, and we'd like to get a thorough analysis," Brandmeier said. "We just want to get a complete picture of everybody's property."

Larson said the village would have to obtain an affidavit in municipal court, draft legal documents and obtain approval from a judge. Should the village pursue this route, a member of the village's inspection or public works department likely would be accompanied by a police officer in visiting a home.

The village is legally entitled under state statutes to seek warrants for homeowners that do not provide voluntary access to their homes.

Since village staff is empowered through statutes to enter the homes, the Village Board did not have to formally act on the proposal, but members did vote unanimously Tuesday to support the use of the legal process.

Brandmeier said the investigation of sewers is linked to a capital improvement project related to the existing setup of the sewer system. The homes are being inspected to find the source of the problem the village is experiencing with infiltration and inflow, in which sanitary sewers are flooded with rainwater and groundwater that should be going into storm sewers.

"Determining the source of the infiltration and inflow is critical to ensuring the proper operation and maintenance (of the sanitary sewer system) … and reduce the likelihood of basement backups," Brandmeier said.

The process is part of the village's response to the June 2008 failure of a lift station along Beach Drive. The device, used to pump water from low to high elevations, malfunctioned during a series of especially heavy downpours. Some homeowners in the area were adversely affected.

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