By Travis Smola
The Schoolcraft Village Council approved a major water rate increase at its early February meeting to fund replacement of an aging water main.
The big focus is the replacement of a 100-year-old water main running from the well house along Cass Street to Center Street. With a recommendation by the water committee, trustees approved two 13 percent increases, the first taking effect over the next two years. The Council noted it will be 26 percent overall when accounting for inflation.
The issue of the aging water main has been something the council has wanted to address for at least the last decade. “If it breaks, we’re in big trouble,” President Keith Gunnett said, noting there would be no pressure for fire hydrants, and customers could be left without water.
He also said the Council is feeling some increased pressure from the state to make these kinds of required improvements to aging infrastructure. The approval also increases the payment grace period from 15 to 20 days and increases the late fee to $15.
The Council also interviewed candidates for two vacant council seats prior to the meeting. School board treasurer Kathy Mastenbrook and 33-year resident and active community member John Stodola were selected to fill the vacancies.
Stodola brings a long history of volunteering in many community and youth sports programs to the table. “I was taught to serve when I was brought up,” Stodola said. “This is the next step for me.”
Personally, he finds it increasingly important to make the village better for his children and grandchildren. Stodola is interested in working more on the village vision planning project for community development. He had already been invited as a citizen to be a part of the project.
“The more input we get from citizens, the better that’s going to turn out,” he said.
Mastenbrook becomes the second council member to serve a dual role with the Schoolcraft school board along with Michael Rochholz. While she knows it’s important to keep the school and village separate, she believes it will also help to build relationships and communication between the village and schools.
She said she wants to help Schoolcraft thrive.
“It’s a transition to continue community service at a broader level besides education,” Mastenbrook said.
As for something she’d like to work on as a council trustee, Mastenbrook noted the increasing number of aging residents in the village, people she deals with daily as a Life and Health Department Assistant at Ayres-Rice Insurance.
To help these residents, she would like to have discussions about the possibility of a senior housing complex in the future, perhaps working in collaboration with Vicksburg.
The other interviewed candidates, Joe Beck, Don Hunt and Kirk Bergland will be considered for a position with the Planning Commission. Gunnett praised all the candidates for their interest, noting other communities struggle to find interested parties for council trustee positions.
“This is really good seeing that we had five people to pick from,” Gunnett said.