by Karen Mead-Elford, co-editor
During the regular city council virtual meeting on Monday, Dec. 7, council members unanimously approved a 7.8 percent increase in water and sewer rates to meet statutory state requirements on replacing private, connective lead lines containing lead or galvanized metal with lead. These lines are located between city-owned and maintained utilities, and residential properties. However, beginning January 1, 2021, the state wants municipalities like Owosso to replace these lines. The hikes will start Friday, Dec. 18.
Roughly 220 properties will be addressed for replacement starting in 2021 – the start of a 20 year replacement plan.
Despite the approved increase, the city of Owosso will still offer some of the lowest rates in the region.
Mayor Chris Eveleth shared that council has been anticipating the increase for some time. “I’m glad we have an experienced council to make tough decisions like this,” he said, recognizing that to meet the state requirements, the city was faced with the need to set the billing increase.
The city also provides water to Caledonia and Owosso townships and the city of Corunna, along with Owosso residents. Corunna is a wholesale customer and pays a 110 percent water usage rate. The townships are charged twice the in-city water rate. The rate increase is being applied to water rates, sewer rates, sprinkling meters, uniform rate sewer/water customers, fire protection lines, township customers and Corunna customers. Overall, the water system contains 6,403 accounts with charges based on the size of meters.
The 7.8 percent represents increases in both water charges at 6.7 percent and sewer charges at 9.1 percent – lending to the 7.8 median increase. Owosso City Manager Nathan Henne explained the increase will help maintain the integrity of the water and sewer systems, and perhaps eventually allow for drastically needed improvements in these older utilities. He outlined a plan to council for necessary, even critical, infrastructure improvements he would like to accomplish between 2021 and 2024. Henne’s plans total out at just over $11 million – and as was discussed by Henne and council members – the 7.8 percent increase will not allow the city to achieve that amount.
Council members Robert Teich and Nick Pidek requested further data on potential financial options that might allow the city to contemplate those needed improvements.
Just a few weeks ago, the council had approved suspending water shutoffs due to pandemic conditions, understanding that residents are facing financial stressors. The city annually addresses water and sewer rates.
To view the entire 2021 water and sewer rate determination, it is provided at www.ci.owosso.mi.us. The city of Owosso always posts links to city council agenda and packet information, which can be viewed by the public.
Virtual meeting information is always provided in advance on the website, as well.