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Oxford on the hook for $1.28M of sewer project

May 15, 2013 - "We have no way of getting out of it. This is just a formality."

That's how Oxford Twp. Supervisor Bill Dunn summed up the municipality's May 8 approval of a contract with Oakland County through its Water Resources Commissioner (WRC).

By signing this contract, the township has agreed to pay $939,362 (or 3.85 percent) of a $24.4 million project that will involve constructing a 36-inch sewage diversion line and a pump station on Perry St. leading to Pontiac's wastewater treatment plant, which is now owned and managed by the WRC Office, not the city.

Plans are to eventually send 30 percent of the total sewage flow from the Clinton-Oakland Sewage Disposal System (COSDS) – which consists of 12 townships, villages and cities – to the Pontiac plant. Right now, 100 percent of the flow heads to the Detroit plant.

"It's shocking, but it's a mandate that we have to do because we have to have a place to put this stuff," Dunn said.

The $24.4 million cost will be split between 11 of the 12 COSDS municipalities. Lake Angelus is technically part of the system, but the city doesn't send any sewage through it, so it doesn't have to pay.

Last month, Oxford Village also approved the contract, which makes it responsible for $339,146 (or 1.39 percent) of the project's total cost.

The county is expected to finance all or part of the $24.4 million project by issuing bonds to be paid off in 20 years. Each COSDS municipality will be expected to pay the county in annual installments.

According to township engineer Jim Sharpe, all of the participating COSDS communities will contribute to the project based on their actual sewage flow.

"That's fair," he said. "We call it 'the pay as you flow.' You're only going to pay for the amount of sewer that you use."

In reality, the only COSDS communities that will actually have their sewage flow to Pontiac are Waterford, West Bloomfield and Independence townships along with a "little bit," as WRC Chief Engineer Tim Prince put it, of Auburn Hills.

Eleven of the 12 Clinton-Oakland communities will be required to contribute to this project because projections show it's more cost-effective in the long run to send 30 percent of the sewage to Pontiac as opposed to Detroit. It's estimated doing this will save the Clinton-Oakland system about $20 million over a 20-year period, Prince said.

But the Perry Street Diversion Project doesn't just save money for the COSDS.

"It provides additional capacity for communities in the system," he said. "If we're sending 30 percent of the flow to Pontiac, then that provides an additional 30 percent that we could send to Detroit. It provides additional capacity for the communities to grow. So, that's the other big issue with that project."

Because the "full faith and credit" of each COSDS municipality is being pledged to pay their respective shares of this $24.4 million project, residents have the right to petition for a referendum on this contract with the county (see public notice on Page 30).

In Oxford Township's case, in order to place this issue on the ballot, the petition must be signed by 10 percent of the registered voters within the township. The petition must be submitted to the township clerk within 45 days of the public notice's publication.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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