By Doug Hissom Special to Published Jan 23, 2008 at 5:16 AM

When Milwaukee police started saturation patrols to crack down on drug dealing, concerns were raised as to how the city could afford to pay for it, both in manpower and in dollars and cents. With more than 200 vacancies on the approved payroll, saturation patrols can lead to serious overtime, which leads to substantial costs for such high-profile headline programs such as the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force.

In 2007, the effort received two headlines of note, seizing 37 pounds of pot at a North Side house and busting 12 people who were reportedly running 60 pounds of coke a month into our fair city.

Maybe there's a connection to the high-profile activity of the task force, but in 2008 it appears the city is ready to ante up for the effort -- with a little help from the feds.

A measure considered this week by a Common Council committee would have the city chip in $968,858 and the feds put up $944,326 for the 2008 season. The feds' portion of the $1,913,184 program would come in the form of four grants.

Elm Grove Still Thirsts: Milwaukee may sell its water to Elm Grove as part of its expanded marketing opportunities. The Village of Elm Grove is stalled in its talks with Wauwatosa in terms of buying water and has approached Milwaukee, perhaps to gain leverage with 'Tosa.

Wauwatosa gets its water from Milwaukee's Water Works, but Wauwatosa is also licensed wholesaler and can sell its water to whomever, as long as it plays by the rules. Sounds like a bidding war is about to take place.

For that to happen, the Milwaukee Common Council needs to tell the Water Works to put together a feasibility study so city elders can decide if they want to scoop up on the ‘Tosa bid.

Elm Grove has been talking with "'Tosa since before 2006 and at one time during the talks, tossed out the idea that Elm Grove build its own water plant to pump lake water west, even pitching it as a way to get Brookfield as a customer. In 1990, residents rejected the idea of an independent water works and instead wanted to pitch Milwaukee for their water.

Major Issues, Minor Money: Milwaukee aldermen will hear that some "major issues" have surfaced in the City Hall restoration process. The most noted of those is that the north end of the building is sinking and has to be fixed. Other issues include replacing a north tower copper lantern.

All told, the major issues will add $515,960 to the tab. To the layman, it would seem that raising the footing of a building like City Hall would cost a lot more than that. The contractors suggest that is an acceptable over-ring and within budgeted levels. The initial budget, after all, is $76.4 million.

Planting a Garden District: Milwaukee's far southeast side could be known as the "Garden District," thanks to efforts by Ald. Terry Witkowski. Witkowski says passengers arriving at Mitchell Airport see his13th District first so he wants to welcome them to Milwaukee with "Garden District" signs and flowers everywhere, as opposed to, say, the taco stand across the street from the airport.

But this grand plan goes beyond just a sign and a few perennials. A "Garden Committee" of green-thumbed citizens will work to encourage business to plant flowers in their front yards as well as putting together garden contests, a garden crawl, and garden planting on vacant lots. The group already has a rather beautified logo for the "Garden District." It probably won't equal the opulence of New Orleans' Garden District but it should certainly brighten up visitors' days.

Timing Means Everything: Sometimes private contractors just don't get started in a timely fashion. And when it comes to analyzing the city's bidding for its parking ticket collection contract that's a likely boon for current contractor, Professional Account Management.

The city hired Performance Management Partners to develop, issue and evaluate the bids for the parking ticket citation processing contract, but even though the city Public Works Department was asked to do that in May, it didn't get around to it until December. That means the bidding isn't going to start until May 2008, which happens to be the same time the current contract ends.

In order to keep things running smoothly in the city's lucrative parking ticket revenue stream, Ald. Robert Bauman suggests that Professional Account Management be allowed to continue its contract with the city until the new contract takes effect in January 2009. Given the lack of alternatives, this choice looks marvelously easy.

Quiet Dumping Hours: Garbage collection should get a lot quieter if a resolution by Ald. Robert Bauman gets passed. It would be all-quiet on the garbage front between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., according to Bauman's plan, which would prevent garbage collection and compacting between those hours if the garbage is within 200 feet of a house.

Guess that means city crews won't be getting an early start in the summer. The ordinance does nothing, however, to address the hours when bars can dump their bottles. That must still be left up to the kindness of the tavern owner.

More Crackdown on Drunks: The new year seems to bring a spate of drunk driving law changes. Last week a bunch of lawmakers were patting themselves on the back for a proposal to get tough on six-time drunk drivers -- as if somebody thinks we should be soft on them. This week another legislator, state Rep. Dean Kaufert, plans to tweak the law to tame those who aren't tea-totallers and got behind the wheel to drive one too many times.

The Neenah Republican wants to mandate the use of an ignition interlock device after a person is convicted for a second OWI. The device prevents people from starting their cars after they had been drinking. It can cost up to $3,000 depending on the make of the vehicle. Kaufert's idea would mandate its use for two years. Current law states that a judge may require the device as an option at sentencing.

Doug Hissom Special to
Doug Hissom has covered local and state politics for 20 years. Over the course of that time he was publisher, editor, news editor, managing editor and senior writer at the Shepherd Express weekly paper in Milwaukee. He also covered education and environmental issues extensively. He ran the UWM Post in the mid-1980s, winning a Society of Professional Journalists award as best non-daily college newspaper.

An avid outdoors person he regularly takes extended paddling trips in the wilderness, preferring the hinterlands of northern Canada and Alaska. After a bet with a bunch of sailors, he paddled across Lake Michigan in a canoe.

He lives in Bay View.