Niles Township trustees to vote Monday on raises for sewer and water

Published 3:07 pm Friday, November 16, 2018

NILES TOWNSHIP —  Township residents might soon be seeing a rate hike in their water and sewer bills, following an analysis of the systems and creation of a capital improvement plan.

At 6 p.m. Monday the board of trustees will meet at the township hall, 320 Bell Road, to vote on whether or not to raise rates. Water could rise from 80 cents every 1,000 gallons to $1 every 1,000 gallons. The average family uses about 6,000 gallons a month, costing about $10.30. The rate raise would mean families would pay about $12. For sewer rates, residents could see a $5 increase from the current rate of $25 to $30. Ready to serve charges could rise from $5.50 to $6. If trustees approve the hikes, the raises would be put into effect at the start of the new year.

The rate proposal follows the recent completion of a three-year study conducted by Prein & Newhof, a Kalamazoo-based engineering and surveyor company. The township commissioned the study after receiving a $1.1 million Sewer and Storm Water Management grant from the state. The study called for an analyzation of the township’s sewer and storm water systems.

Treasurer Jim Ringler said that Prein & Newhof recently shared the conclusion of the study and created a roughly 20-year capital improvement plan.

Ringler said the good news is that both systems are in relatively good shape, but the study revealed some necessary improvements that will cost the township and its residents.

The company has projected the cost for upgrades through 2037 to be about $17.5 million for sanitary and $3.25 million for water.

“That’s replacing lift stations, replacing some concrete pipes, replacing force mains and then there are some little items that we have to fix that we discovered throughout this whole inventory process and analysis,” Ringler said.

Prein & Newhof is also advising that trustees implement a 2-percent increase for water every year through 2037 to maintain the water system. For sewage, they are proposing a $5 increase for the next two years, followed by smaller but consistent rate changes through 2037. The township will have to approve rates annually.

The breakdown for rate adjustments also had to factor in the rising costs of treating sewage through the city of Niles, according to Ringler.

It has been 10 years since the township last raised the rates for water and sewage use. Ringler said even with next year’s proposed hike in effect, the township still stands to have comparatively lower rates.

“It’s not that I want to be in the middle or at the top,” Ringler said. “My duty as a township official is to make sure that our water and sewer systems are in working order, the shape they should be in to guarantee safe drinking water and the health of our citizens that use our sanitary sewer system.”

The state set aside money for the SAW grants as a way to incentivize municipalities to commission in-depth studies of their water and sewer infrastructure. A number of cities across Michigan are taking part in the SAW grant studies.

Prein & Newhof will be available during the township meeting Monday to answer questions about the study and capital improvement project.