Dowagiac considers sewer rate increase

Published 10:05 am Wednesday, January 16, 2019

DOWAGIAC — Residents of the city of Dowagiac may soon see an increase in their sewer rates.

During Monday evening’s city council meeting, the Dowagiac City Council had the first reading of an ordinance to amend the sewer rates for the city of Dowagiac effective with the March 2019 and March 2020 billing. If approved, a household using 4,000 gallons of water — or a typical four-person household — can expect its bill to increase by $5.58 in March 2019 and $5.39 in March of 2020. A second reading of the ordinance is scheduled for the Jan. 28 city council meeting.

The rate increase will be used to fund capital improvements identified by a study funded by a Department of Environmental Quality Stormwater, Asset Management and Wastewater (SAW) Grant, which was completed by the city late last year.

Kevin Anderson

“Every bit of that increase is based on the findings of the SAW grant,” said City Manager Kevin Anderson. “Every cent is going back into major capital improvement projects.”

The rate increase will be necessary for the city to maintain current operational and current capital investment levels, Anderson said.

“We have a sewer system that is 100 years old-plus. We can say that it has served the community extremely well, as we have had very limited problems with it over the years,” Anderson said. “But we can’t expect it to last another 100 years. For many of them, we can’t expect another 20, so what we have done is identify the worst of the sewers, the worst of the manholes, and we are going to go through and do major reconstruction on those sections.”

The capital improvements will be one of the biggest projects the city has taken on in recent history, Anderson said.

“It will be mostly invisible because so much of it will be done underground,” he said. “But it is very important. The council has really stepped up and recognized the need to make this reinvestment in the sewer lines.”

If passed, Anderson said the sewer rate increases would set the rate for the next 20 years of capital improvements and that residents shouldn’t expect any other large rate increases — aside from routine and inflation-related increases — in the near future. Sewer rates were last adjusted in July 2017.

In other business, the city entered into a healthcare services contract with Ascension Borgess Lee Hospital. Ascension Borgess-Lee Hospital currently offers the federal 340b discount drug program which assists the city in better serving the vulnerable citizens of Dowagiac and surrounding areas by allowing them to provide medications at a more affordable rate, according to a memo sent by Anderson to the city council.

Natalie Ryder, chief administrative officer for Ascension Borgess Lee, reported to the city council that during the hospital’s most recent program audit, it was identified that the hospital did not have an agreement with a local governing agency on file, which is required.

The agreement between Ascension Borgess Lee and the city will essentially say that Ascension Borgess-Lee hospital will provide services/the discount drug program to the underserved and qualifying citizens of Dowagiac. The city attorney has reviewed the agreement and indicated that the agreement does not create any financial obligations on the part of the city of Dowagiac.

“It is a recognition that this is part of [the hospital’s] service territory and people living here would qualify,” Anderson said Monday.

The resolution to approve the agreement was unanimous.

Also Monday, the Dowagiac City Council approved several appointments and reappointments to city boards.

• Paul Hartsig was appointed to the Dial-A-Ride Local Advisory Board for a term expiring in May 2023.

• Jean Cline was reappointed to the Board of Review for a term expiring in 2021.

• Tony Poarch was reappointed to the Planning Commission for a term expiring in 2021.

• Jonathan Korzun was reappointed to the Local Officers Compensation Committee for a term expiring in 2023.

• Pat O’Keefe was reappointed to the Construction Board of Appeals for a term expiring in 2023.