Niles Township trustees approve sewer, water rate hikes

NILES TOWNSHIP — Niles Township trustees voted unanimously Monday night to approve proposed sewer and water rate hikes.

The decision to raise rates follows an in-depth examination of the township’s sewer and water infrastructure by Prein & Newhof, a Kalamazoo-based engineering and surveyor company. Township officials commissioned the study after earning a $1.1 million Sewer and Water Asset Management Grant from the state.

The study revealed repair costs of about $17.5 million for sanitary and $3.25 million for water. Some of the more major repairs include the replacement of 12 of the township’s 16 lift stations, as well as replacing concrete piping and force mains. A 20-year capital improvement plan was created to meet the needs of these repairs.

Approved rates are as follows:

  • Water Commodity Charge: $1 per 1,000 gallons
  • Wholesale Water Commodity Charge: $1.50 per 1,000 gallons
  • Bulk “Hydrant Fill” Water Commodity Charge: $5 per 1,000 gallons
  • Monthly Sewer Service Charge: Single-family residential users $30
  • 50-cent rate increase for ready to serve charge

The rate hikes will go into effect next year during the first billing cycle in February. In an earlier interview, Jim Ringler, the township’s treasurer, said it has been 10 years since the water and sewer rates were last raised.

“[We] can’t go on forever without adjusting rates,” Ringler said.

Despite rate raises, Ringler said that compared to a number of Michigan municipalities the rates remain among the lowest.

Prein & Newhof also advised 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. One factor in potential yearly raises is also dependent on city of Niles sewage costs, as the township treats its sewage through the city’s plant.

Trustee Dan Pulaski questioned whether that means trustees will be approving rates every year.

Treasurer Jim Ringler said that Monday night’s vote was just for the 2019 year. The trustees will have to discuss potential continued rate hikes each year.

Also Monday:

  • Trustees voted unanimously to communicate to MDOT that they are interested in having a sidewalk created on the east side of S. 11th Street starting at Chestnut and running for as long as funds will allow. MDOT will be repaving part of S. 11th down to Chestnut streets. There are funds remaining to create a sidewalk, so MDOT officials asked township trustees on direction for the creation of a potential sidewalk. The re-pavement project is slated for completion next year.
  • Trustees voted unanimously to establish a budget hearing for 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 17, at the Niles Township Hall.
  • Trustees voted unanimously to approve an expired Indiana Michigan Power Company electric franchise ordinance, allowing the business to use local public ways and provide local electrical business.

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