The city of Madison would gain greater control over governance of the Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District under the budget approved late Thursday by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, stripping control from Dane County, which currently appoints all nine members of the district’s governing board.

The district imposes fees on municipalities for handling wastewater and decides how to comply with state and federal water-quality rules. Under current state law, its commissioners are appointed by the Dane County Board. Two-thirds of the district is in the city of Madison.

The committee’s provision would give Madison’s mayor five of the appointments to the commission. Three others would be appointed by the top elected officials of each city and village that is part of the district, and one would be appointed by elected officials of each town.

In a statement Friday, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin said the panel made “sensible changes” to statutes governing how appointments are made to the Sewerage District board. He said the change puts appointing authority in the hands of local governments that are paying the bills and whose citizens are affected by the board’s decisions.

“Over the past couple of years, I have initiated discussions with other communities in the MMSD about modifying the system for making appointments,” Soglin said. “Several of those communities, along with the Madison Common Council, have passed resolutions in support of this change.”

Among them were Cottage Grove, DeForest and Waunakee.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said he was concerned that the change would threaten the county’s partnership with MMSD to reduce phosphorus runoff into local lakes. With the MMSD board now county-appointed, everyone in the county is involved in the partnership.

“Under this new model, MMSD will be run by the city of Madison and a few other cities,” Parisi said. “It excludes the townships where all of the (agriculture) is. If we are not sensitive to the farm community, that could endanger that partnership.”

But Soglin said the changes will not affect the district’s commitment to environmental protection, “particularly in the area of phosphorus reduction, public health and conservation. I hope many of the current commissioners will continue to serve.”

State Journal reporter Jeff Glaze contributed to this report.

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Ed Treleven is the courts reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.