April 10, 2013 - Ortonville- Several projects were discussed during a special study session April 9 between the village council and planning commission, including numerous drain and sidewalk repairs, as well as new non-motorized pathways.
However, one potential project has garnered far more attention—a wastewater treatment system.
"The information we have on sewers goes back to 1958," said Village Manager John Lyons. "There are a multitude of reasons why (previous councils) didn't do it, but they didn't. As the village manager, I feel this is something we need to pursue for the health of everyone."
Both Lyons and Village Council President Wayne Wills noted that residents with failed septic fields are often required by the county health department to get a new engineered field, due to small lot sizes in the village and soil that doesn't perk. Engineered fields can cost $20,000-$30,000 on average.
With the recent purchase of foreclosed property on Narrin Street that would be suitable for a wastewater treatment facility, and a completed environmental study on the property clearing the way, the village is closer than it has ever been to making sewers a reality.
In the past, controversy and concern have centered around the cost of bringing such a system to the village. However, the Narrin property purchase was completed for $40,000 and the study was done at a cost of $20,000. As Wills noted, this is a far cry from a previously considered land purchase that would have cost roughly half-a-million dollars near MacPhee's Restaurant several years ago.
Lyons said he would like to pursue all avenues of funding, including grants at various governmental levels, to lower costs for village residents. Service would focus strictly on the village, unlike in the past, when larger systems were considered. A village system would, however, be beneficial to the school district, which has buildings located within the village or in very close proximity.
Planning Commission Member Larry Hayden said sewers are a health and safety issue, particularly with e. coli levels in Kearsley Creek that have worsened over time. He fears drinking water will eventually be contaminated due to lack of a wastewater treatment system.
"Sewers will increase property values and not having them holds back economic development," he added.
Lyons said who will receive sewer service will be determined in a project plan, and while it may not be all of the village to start, by the end, everyone in the village limits would be included.
Village resident Don Heffner said sewers are a business issue, and suggested that business owners should foot the bill.
"You need residents to buy in to defray the cost and that's not right," he said. "You need to look at a smaller system for businesses. A lot of people are on an extreme fixed income. Why would you make me pay $15,000?"
Wills said while council members do not have cost estimates yet, he firmly believes it will cost much less than an engineered field.
Laura Douglas, village resident, voiced concerns about living next to a wastewater treatment facility.
"I don't want to live next to something with bright lights and sounds," she said. "I understand the village needs to grow… I would not like a restaurant in town, I don't want to smell that either. Have you ever heard a grinder? I don't want to hear or smell (a wastewater treatment facility)."
Wills said there are multiple ways to remedy these issues.
"There are people who want a system and people who don't want one now or ever," he said. "We will explore the issue and turn every stone over."
Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville