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Village sewer talks start again

January 26, 2011 - Ortonville- Sewers have been talked about for years here, decades even.

Septic systems have failed for village residents and business owners, and still, there are no sewers. Cost is the major obstacle and with the current economy, money would seem to be an issue now more than ever. However, the discussion on bringing sewers to the village is being revived yet again.

The village council will have a study session on sewers at 6 p.m., Feb. 16, at the village offices, 476 Mill St.

"We will have a study session to strategize over how to proceed, if at all, with bringing sewers to the village," said Village Council President Wayne Wills. "I am interested in bringing sewers to the village if they are needed. There are people who say they are."

The Downtown Development Authority held a Jan. 12 town meeting regarding sewers because there are several new members on both the DDA board, as well as the village council, said DDA Executive Director Molly LaLone. During the meeting, the history of sewer talks in the village was discussed, as well as potential funding programs including the MichIgan Department of Environmental Quality state revolving fund and the USDA Rural Development loan.

In the past, the village has considered pursuing grants, but that seems unlikely now. To receive a grant, LaLone said the median income in the village would need to be about $26,000. The median household income in the village is ?.

A lack of sewers in the community has crippled business growth. Failing septic systems have continually caused health concerns, including e coli in Kearsley Creek and condemnation of homes. Oakland County Health Division Manager George Miller has said when current septic systems fail, residents need to go to engineered systems, which in the long-term are more expensive than sewers. He noted that for maintaining public health, sewer systems are far healthier.

A sewer timeline was postponed indefinitely in July 2007 due to a lack of property for a wastewater treatment plant and faltering support in a crumbling economy. A straw poll regarding interest in sewers was sent to 1,195 residents and businesses along the M-15 corridor and around Bald Eagle Lake and Lake Louise in early 2007. 661 replies were received, with nearly 60 percent of respondents voting that they were not interested in sewers

In January 2009, a joint sewer committee was formed with village council members and Brandon Township officials, who had been entertaining the possibility of a joint sewer venture with Genesee County. That proposal featured a Kearsley Creek interceptor in which a large underground pipe would collect wastewater and take it to a treatment plant. It could have been used in Kearsley Creek to service the east branch, which would go to Brandon Township and Ortonville, or the west branch, going to Groveland Township and Holly. Both branches would have been served if there were enough interest. However, the idea was nixed when it was discovered the cost would have exceeded the cost of the township and/or village building their own wastewater treatment center. Genesee County officials' lowest estimate to just get the infrastructure to the county line would cost $4,790.96 per residential equivalency unit (the cost per resident). The village and township would then have to incur additional cost to build infrastructure for delivery to each individual home and business.

It would have cost approximately $13 million to hook up to the interceptor which only reaches the county line, while it would cost about $5 million for the local municipalities to build their own wastewater treatment plant.

While money is still an issue, LaLone said now may be a good time to consider sewers.

"Engineered septic fields cost as much for citizens as installing a sewer system, but the advantage to sewers is the village would take care of the financing, so residents wouldn't have to fund it on their own," she said. "Their property values would go up, because buyers wouldn't have to worry about failed septic systems in their future. I would love to see sewers happen, but it's in the village council's hands."

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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