The Macomb Daily
Officials to vote on water plant issue
'Your plant isn't going to last forever,' city engineer tells crowd; vote is tonight
After months of discussion and hundreds of pages of drawings and documents, Mount Clemens officials are expected to decide tonight whether to build a new water filtration plant or contract water service with a regional agency.
Faced with state mandates to repair their own existing, aging water plant, city commissioners are scheduled to vote on whether to replace the structure at a cost of $45 million or connect to the Great Lakes Water Authority facility, which carries a price tag of about $17 million.
Perhaps surprisingly, there is a case to be made for opting to construct a new plant despite the higher cost.
“A lot of people want to have their own plant and are willing to pay for it,” said Interim City Manager Gregg Shipman. “They definitely want to keep the autonomy that goes with ownership. But can they afford a $400 increase a year for the capital expenditures that comes with it?”
To hook up to the GWLA would cost taxpayers $17 million, or $1.4 million a year for 20 years, and re
quire an estimated annual 19% rate increase of $145. To construct a new water plant would cost the city $45 million, or $3,750,000 a year. The 50% rate increase would be $384.
For decades, the city has operated its own filtration plant on Jefferson Avenue in Harrison Township, which is old and in need of significant upgrades. That’s where Mount Clemens’ drinking water is drawn from Lake St. Clair at its filtration site.
The city hosted a series of four informational meetings with the city’s engineering firm, Anderson, Eckstein & Westrick last week to provide background information to residents on the question.
“You guys have to do something,” Kyle Seidel, a senior project engineer from AEW, said. “Your plant isn’t going to last forever.”
Some residents spoke of having an emotional connection to their own water system. Some insist it tastes different — better — than what they’ve tasted from GLWA sites. And still others are wary and distrustful of letting outsiders set the water rates for Mount Clemens residents.
Commissioner Denise Mentzer, who is scheduled to resign in the coming weeks as she transitions to the state House of Representatives, prefers the city retain local control. She described the Mount Clemens water as “fresh, clean and clear.”
“I want us to control of our own destiny,” Mentzer said. “We have excellent water quality and we’ve won award after award for a number of years.”
Mentzer held up several Macomb Daily newspapers which carried articles about the $21 million debt dispute for unpaid water and sewerage bills incurred by the city of Highland Park that may be passed along to the approximate 100 member communities of GLWA, and other issues.
“I’m not paying anyone else’s bills,” Mentzer said;.
According to city officials, Michigan’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) is offering low-interest loans to eligible water suppliers. Communities that qualify as being “overburdened” may also receive principal forgiveness for a portion of the loan.
Mount Clemens applied for an intent to apply for a loan through the Department of Environmental, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) in August and the state approved the application to apply for both the GWLA and building a new plant.
With the application deadline being May 1, 2023, Mount Clemens must vote on which way to proceed.
The City Commission has a vote scheduled for 7 p.m. today at City Hall, 1 Crocker Blvd.