January 04, 2012 - By Joe St. Henry
Some 1,700 Orion Township households received a survey last month, inquiring about their interest in switching from well to Detroit city water.
The township is offering to pay the engineering and installation costs associated with extending watermains in neighborhoods where there is enough demand.
Homeowners would be responsible for paying one-time maintenance and tap/meter fees of $3,240, which can be financed through Orion Township. They also are responsible for the cost of a licensed contractor/plumber to connect their homes to the watermain.
Bill Ireland, director of the township's department of public works, stressed that the switch is voluntary.
"Nobody will be forced to hook into a watermain," he said. "If one is installed, when or if a resident wants city water, it will be there."
Ireland also said when a watermain is installed, fire hydrants can be added to streets, too, helping reduce homeowner insurance costs.
At least one local plumbing company plans to offer a deal to persons interested in the water connection.
Lake Orion Plumbing and Heating says it will offer a discounted price of $800 to area residents – versus its regular charge of $1,200 – to hook up homes to a new watermain.
"We're a business in this community and we'd like to give residents a break," said owner Bruce Keeth, who said he plans to switch his own home in the community from well to city water if it becomes available.
Supervisor JoAnn Van Tassel said the township received a number of inquiries about extending watermains during 2011, prompting it to explore the public's interest switching to city water in neighborhoods currently served by wells.
Ireland said his department hopes to undertake one or two watermain extension projects during the 2012 construction period. About 700 people responded to the survey, split about 50-50 in favor or opposed to the program, he added.
"I was initially opposed to the program, worried that we'd be forced to make the switch and it would cost a lot," said 15-year resident Kyle Dykeman, who uses a well and needs to replace a water softener soon at a cost of $1,600. "But the watermain hook-up cost, at least from one company, seems reasonable.
Dykeman added that she had a new well dug a few years ago at a cost of $5,000 and if she can still use it for outside purposes, including filling her pool, that would be "great."
There are people in the community, however, that want nothing to do with city water, including resident Mary Brady.
"We don't want the water," she said. "We already have water. I know there are people who complain about rusty water and I'd just tell them to get a water softener. It's a lot cheaper than the $80 per month or more you'll be charged for city water when you can get it for free."
Brady also has concerns with the construction of the watermains. She is afraid it could tear up her yard and cost her some trees on her property.
"We bought our house because it had a well and septic system," Brady said. "There is nothing wrong with our water. I'm very opposed to this program.
"We already have too much government - they need to leave us alone."
Ireland said he is meeting with the Township Board this month to review next steps, possibly including recommendations for where to start the watermain extension activities later this year. He said a public hearing on the program would be held as early as February.