Home Around Town New state rules may mean local water hikes
New state rules may mean local water hikes

New state rules may mean local water hikes

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Douglas, trying to untangle “spaghetti” water lines linked to side yards instead of mains, is not alone facing challenges posed by new state laws mandating cities pay to replace lead and galvanized water pipes on private property.

Fennville, already pursuing major infrastructure improvements, could see costs rise more than originally planned because of it, Commercial Record correspondent Jim Hayden reports on his Bicycle Base Fennville blog.

“This is a new thing since we did the water asset management plan,” engineer Dana Burd of Prein & Newhof told the Fennville City Commission at a special meeting last week to update the status of plans needed to fund $7 million in water, sewer and road projects in the city.

Members, among them Hayden, will discuss possible water rate increases at the commission’s May 21 meeting, according to Mayor Tom Pantelleria.

Fennville is applying for a $1.16-million U.S. Department of Agriculture loan to improve the water system including mains and wells. Part of the work might require the city to replace lead or galvanized lines on private property as result of a Michigan Department of Environmental Quality ruling, Burd said.

The city will have to determine the material in the private pipes from the public water line to the water meter in the house, said Hayden. If there is no paper record of the private pipe’s material, the city will have to inspect the line in the house or actually dig down to the line to examine it. There will be no cost to the homeowner — the city will pay the entire bill.

Of Fennville’s 626 water users, about 30 percent, or 188, need to be verified, said Burd. That can be done when the city replaces its current water meters with new devices as part of the USDA loan, according to City Administrator Amanda Morgan.

The city originally planned 3-percent hikes in water rates to cover repairs and upgrades, but the state’s new lead pipe rule means Fennville might need to raise rates by 8 percent for five years, according to Andy Campbell of H.J. Umbaugh & Associates of East Lansing. The company is the city’s financial consultant for the bond issue.

That increase could mean homeowners on average pay about $1 more a month for water services,

The city is also applying for a $3.3-million loan from the State Revolving Fund for repairs and updates to its wastewater system including pipes, lift stations and its treatment plant.

As part of state requirements, the city will hold a public hearing about the project June 17, at 7 p.m.