By Sue Moore
Nearly 50 people packed the Schoolcraft Village Council chambers to hear a formal presentation about a proposal to build a sanitary sewer system in the village. Reactions for and against followed.
Alan Smaka, engineer from Wightman Associates, attended for the South County Sewer and Water Authority (SCSWA), to determine interest in such a system for the lakes in this area as well as the village.
“This is the beginning of the public engagement program that will run through the summer,” Smaka said. He will also be speaking to residents of Barton Lake, Sugerloaf Lake, and the village of Vicksburg.
“Our goal is to provide a necessary service at the lowest possible cost. If all the potential areas would work together, the bigger the project, the lower the costs would be,” he said. Thus, his projections were conservative. He listed several possible funding routes for financing: municipal bonding, rural development loan or grant funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture or borrowing from a revolving loan fund at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ)–although most of that funding has been committed to the Detroit area.
Members of the audience were given three minutes to state their position on what has been a divisive issue in Schoolcraft for at least 25 years. Keith Gunnett, village council president, made it clear that nothing had been decided and the council was there to listen to the citizens and business owners in the village.
Afterwards, Gunnett tallied fifteen speakers in favor of further exploration and six adamantly opposed. The costs to individuals seemed to be the main sticking point. Those with septic systems that were working well or are reasonably new felt the costs to them would be too high as they had already invested and thus did not want to be committed to hookups that they didn’t feel they needed.
Those speaking in favor of the possibility wanted to see the village grow and prosper. With a sewer system in place, they felt that could happen. Joe Beck, Vienna Street, spoke for the project saying, “We need to protect the groundwater we drink from. It’s a community-wide thing and we should start looking at the whole community to have a sewer system. Other small towns around have sewers; we are the last ones. It may hurt a few to do this for all. We should find a way to help people who need the help.”
Charlie Munson, Osterhout Street, answered that the small towns around all got grants but didn’t get the growth. “It’s not just the sewers that will bring the growth,” he contended.
Steve Sutton, 435 West Street, asked about his three parcels, wondering if he would have to pay for each one on the “benefit fee” issue. “I see no value to having it and the prices will only go up. We are blessed with good soil and this is hard to swallow with three parcels that I would need to pay for. Why not run it just through the US131 corridor and let future generations decide what they want?”
Ron Gammill 200 W. Cass, felt this was a public health issue. But most importantly wanted to know who can make the decision about going ahead with the sewer project. Smaka said he would look in to the legal issues this might raise. But he acknowledged that at some point the village council would be asked to create a special assessment district, requiring it to vote on the matter. There could also be a petition process from village residents who want the sewer as another way to address the issue, he said.