By Susan Bromley
Ortonville- For the second time in just over a month, a meeting regarding a suggested tri-community sewer initiative was held at the Brandon Township Library.
At the most recent meeting on June 1, members of the Brandon Township and Groveland Township boards and the respective planning commissions of those communities heard much of the same information that was given at an April 26 meeting.
But conspicuously absent were village officials, with the exception of Council President Wayne Wills and Village Manager David Trent.
“The village council did not have a quorum present, only one member, Wayne Wills, so we don’t know if this is something the village council even wants to do,” said Brandon Township Supervisor Kathy Thurman. “If this falls apart, we may have a discussion on doing our own project before putting the total subject to rest.”
At a meeting of the township board on June 5, Trustee Scott Broughton also made note of the village council’s absence from the joint sewer meeting, saying it appeared the village manager was “not acting in accordance with the wishes of the village council.”
Groveland Township Supervisor Bob DePalma also noted the absence of all village officials except Wills and Trent and assumed it means there is still no support for sewers from the village council, which went to voters with a ballot proposal in 2015 that would have established a sewer system in the village funded through an assessment of approximately $25,500 on each home. The proposal was soundly defeated, with nearly 90 percent of voters saying no.
Trent is organizing the latest attempt at sewers, which proposes a system that would service businesses in the downtown, as well as on the M-15 corridor in Brandon and Groveland townships, as well as possibly Brandon Township residents who live around Bald Eagle Lake and Lake Louise, areas with septic system issues.
At the June 1 meeting, Trent said additional information was provided from a legal standpoint that he believes alleviated concerns of officials for what their community’s financial risk would be and DePalma agreed that a suggestion to use the county’s AAA bond rating to finance a proposed project is new and important, but solid numbers are still needed, including the residential equivalency units, which are used to determine the cost of a sewer system for each business.
“After you have studied sewer systems for 61 years and had a vote this recently, you should be able to come up with numbers for cost,” said DePalma. “That is when you find out if people are really interested… This is not a big issue in Groveland.”
DePalma said he has spoken with seven of the eight business owners in his township that would be included in the proposed project and is not aware of one that has an issue with their existing septic systems.
“Until we get numbers that are reasonably accurate for business owners, we can’t know if they are interested,” said DePalma. “We’re certainly not spending money or securing loans for a project of this magnitude when it would apply to such a small portion of our township.”
In the village, Trent said he has personally spoken to 30 business owners, 90 percent of which have expressed they want the potential costs for sewers investigated. He plans to continue face-to-face meetings with business owners and is also working on completion of a sewer forum questionnaire, which asks business owners how much they have invested in their septic systems, how much they anticipate spending on future maintenance or replacement of those systems, whether they believe sewers would be beneficial for the area and their specific property; and what costs they could support for such a system. He hopes to have the questionnaire completed in the next month and provided to each prospective board, as well as the village council, which he hopes to get the support of clarified at their next meeting, June 26.
Trent also hopes to bring a proposal to the council within the next few months from Rowe Engineering for an analysis that would determine REUs for each business in the proposed sewer district.
“If a business owner pays for the analysis proposal, at that point, it is privately funded,” said Trent. “I’m optimistic on moving forward with this.”