Winnecke Reacts to EPA Meeting Over Sewer Plans

City officials called Thursday's meeting over rejected plans painful, but productive.
Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke called yesterday's meeting between city and environmental officials on the state and federal levels painful, but productive. The meeting followed the rejection of the city's proposed $540 million plan to lower sewer overflows. But discussions will continue despite the disagreements.

Mayor Winnecke says discussions on the city's sewer plans suddenly went down the sewer.

"When you have lawyers from IDEM, and from the federal government with their arms crossed and their eyes rolled making distasteful facial gestures during the meeting, you know it's not going well," he says.

Winnecke says the heated five hour meeting saw both sides make their case. City officials argued their 28 year, $540 million plan was enough without straining residents budgets.

"We made it quite clear in our discussions yesterday what we thought the line in the sand was and we think it's $540 million."

But environmental officials say the city can cross that line, and do more to improve the system and protect others on the Ohio River. Winnecke says he doesn't see any hope in the plan, rejected last month, being approved now.

"Not only do they not buy into it, they don't understand it," says Winnecke.

City sewer rates went up 32% this year, and will increase another 8% next year.  While contentious, Mayor Winnecke didn't think the meeting was a complete waste. He says talks will continue to solve technical issues.

"What we're hopeful that in the coming weeks, there will be fruitful discussions on the technical side where we make some advances," he adds. "Maybe there is some room for some compromise."

Mayor Winnecke adds work on smaller projects related to sewer improvements will continue while talks go on.

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