Schoolcraft seeks sewer grant, eyes nearby proposals

A sewage treatment plant seen from above.

By Bob Ball

Schoolcraft Village Council at a March 21 meeting voted to apply for a $10.5-million federal grant to build a sewer line on Grand Street – US-131 – from one end of the village to the other.

It would provide sewage disposal for businesses on the busy highway which, like the rest of the village, now depend on septic tanks.

The village’s application coincides with a growing interest among townships in St. Joseph County south of Schoolcraft for a sewer system and sewage treatment plant to attract economic development. The village and the townships of Park and Flowerfield, which straddle the US-131 corridor, have signed a letter of intent to discuss the issue, said Schoolcraft council President Keith Gunnett.

The St. Joseph County townships have asked the five-community South County Water & Sewer Authority about joining it and to consider operating the sewer system if becomes a reality.

In Schoolcraft, the grant would pay for the sewer, connections to buildings on Grand St. and a sewage interceptor to the Kalamazoo sewage treatment plant, said Finance Director Tammi Youngs.

The village council approved the grant application unanimously. “We were notified that Kalamazoo County had $15 million from ARPA (the American Rescue Plan Act) if we submitted our application by March 15,” said Youngs. “Our engineers worked up a cost, $10.5 million.”

“All other details would have to be worked out if we were awarded the grant. That should be worked out this spring,” she said.

A sewage disposal system in the village, how to pay to build and maintain it and where to dispose of the sewage have been contentious issues for years.

The sewer on Grand St. would have capacity to serve the rest of the village and some nearby areas, Gunnett said.

The village has no guarantee it will receive a grant. “We don’t know if we can get those funds. We’re trying to get them because the government is passing out all this money. But you’ve got to have a plan before anyone will give you money,” Gunnett said.

He doesn’t favor sending sewage to Kalamazoo for treatment. He’s put off by the distance and the age of Kalamazoo’s infrastructure. A sewage treatment plant in Park Township south of Schoolcraft might be placed 10 miles away.

Doug Kuhlman, zoning administrator for several communities in St. Joseph County, said the two townships are interested in economic development. “I have people who would like to locate in the corridor. If we don’t have sewers, they can’t.”

The South County Water & Sewer Authority includes the villages of Vicksburg and Schoolcraft and townships of Schoolcraft, Brady and Pavilion. It operates two sewer systems, one serving Pickerel and Indian Lakes and another in Pavilion Township. Sewage from both is routed to Kalamazoo’s treatment plant.

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