By Rob Peterson
The Schoolcraft Village Council at a March 2 meeting outlined a new timeline for a decision regarding a possible wastewater treatment system project.
Trustees also noted three areas that could be added to the project: the south end of Sugarloaf Lake, Barton Lake and the Canal Zone south of Gourdneck Lake.
The village of Vicksburg, however, is not able to buy into the project because it has an outstanding loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for past sewer upgrades. Only one loan is allowed from the USDA at a time. To participate, Vicksburg could either buy services from a Schoolcraft system or pay off its existing loan. Neither of these options are under consideration at the moment, Schoolcraft was informed.
According to the timeline presented, the Schoolcraft will hold a May 18 public hearing, then decide if it will proceed with the project. If a decision is made to move ahead, the village will petition the County Drain Commission to establish the project. This is a critical juncture; after that point there are few contingencies that could stop the project and costs will start adding up.
At issue is that the USDA does not set bonding rates or grant amounts until after the decision to move ahead has been made by the village Council. “This is all backwards in my thinking,” complained Village President Keith Gunnett.
The Council has no information yet on past projects in other municipalities to compare what the potential USDA grants might be.
“This is not an emergency,” said Trustee John Stodola. “It’s important that we do this right. I won’t be voting for the project unless we have final numbers, including the grants and the interest rate.”
Because the current method of funding the project is through the county Drain Commission, there will be no petition or vote by village residents; the decision rests entirely on the Council.
“Only nine percent of residents wanted sewers last time,” claimed village resident Sam Andres, “So why are we doing this? Doesn’t majority rule?”
“We are still in fact-finding mode,” said Trustee Rochholz. “We don’t like the process we have, but we are the final decision-makers and we will do what is best for the Village.”