ANDY CAMPBELL, representing Baker Tilly, offered a presentation of the ins-and-outs of a water and sewer rate study to Owosso City Council Monday evening. Like other local municipalities, Owosso is contending with aged water and sewer infrastructure.

(Independent Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)

 

  The Owosso City Council approved a resolution increasing water and sewer rates for the next five years during the Monday, March 7 meeting at city hall. The 7-0 vote was arrived at following a lengthy presentation by Andy Campbell of Baker Tilly and much cautious deliberation amongst council members. The increase will start in July.

   Baker Tilly did the Owosso water and sewer rate study for the city and Campbell offered two proposals to council for consideration. The five-year proposal the council voted on supports a 14.4 percent water rate increase also using $750,000 in ARPA funds in year-one toward water system/infrastructure improvements. The ARPA funds, which Campbell offered were primarily intended to assist with failing water/sewer infrastructure, will be used during the first year of water improvements. Following, in years two through five, rates will see a 3-percent increase per year.

   Regarding the second part of the approved resolution, sewer rates will increase 39.6 percent over the first two years, followed with a 3-percent increase in years three through five. Both increases will start July 1.

   It was noted during the meeting, that even with the rate increase, Owosso residents will still pay less than many other nearby cities for water and sewer. The city of Durand has been dealing with a similar situation and Baker Tilly has been assisting them, as well.

   Owosso Mayor Chris Eveleth emphasized if the city did not approve the increase to help replace and repair aged city water and sewer infrastructure and deal with the Lead and Copper Rule to replace lead lines between homes and the street, they would be faced with the state coming in and setting the rates, instead. Eveleth shared he thought the possibility of the state taking over in Owosso was “unacceptable.”

   Both Eveleth and council member Dan Law offered concerns regarding the water/sewer rate increase, factoring in current inflation increases and the overall effect on residents. Council member Nick Pidek offered he was concerned for his 4-year-old daughter, not wanting to see her one day confronted with a far worse state of infrastructure if council did not do something about taking care of the old systems now. The overall consensus appeared to be council members did not want to “kick the can farther down the road.” Council member Teich shared he had seen previous councils “kick the can” too often and the results were damaging – leaving current council members with the tough decision to set the increases or contend with failing and potentially hazardous systems.

    Eveleth mentioned a new program currently being offered through Capital Area Community Services (CACS) that might help “soften the blow” regarding water and sewer increases for residents on limited income.

   Eveleth also noted that Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSOs) into the Shiawassee have been less over the previous year. Owosso City Manager Nathan Henne offered the SSOs had been impacted by the headworks project at the Waste Water Treatment Plant in 2021, sharing there had been no SSOs since that project was completed. He added there has only been one SSO of only 4,000 gallons into the river in the last year – a huge reduction from prior years.

   The next council meeting is planned for Monday, March 21.

Owosso Approves Water and Sewer Rate Increase Effective July 1 was last modified: March 15th, 2022 by Karen Elford