By Rob Peterson
Finding a second well site and enforcement of a rental house ordinance were high priorities in a 2023 goal-setting session of the Schoolcraft Village Council.
The village hopes to find a second site for the water system within the first six months of the year. The challenge has been finding property available for sale that meets criteria for a safe well.
“The current site is not ideal as it is next to the railroad tracks,” said Village Manager Cheri Lutz. If a train carrying toxic materials were to derail near the site, it could taint the water supply.
Another high-priority item is enforcement of the existing rental house ordinance. It’s been on the books for decades but hasn’t been enforced. According to Lutz, the ordinance is similar to one in Portage and is intended to ensure that rental homes are safe for occupants.
Another local law seeing increased enforcement is the parking ordinance, which prohibits parking in the right of way.
“I will work with our public works director and police chief to find solutions to the homes that have parking issues,” said Lutz. “We’re not trying to be heavy-handed”, she said, but there are safety concerns that need to be addressed.
“We’ll start with the easy solutions first,” she added, stating that it is more difficult on some of the properties due to the small parcel size and the location of septic systems.
The council also desires to continue its “community building events” in 2023. Currently, the village organizes the Music in the Park series and the 4th of July car show.
“We don’t have the staffing to take on a new event,” said Lutz, “but if someone has a great idea, such as a farmers market, we would do what we can to support them.”
In other village news, Schoolcraft continues to lobby with the county board to be awarded federal funds through the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA. The county has $1.3 million left in its allocation. Lutz argues that the county should provide money to update the village’s aging municipal water system.
“We are the only municipality that has not received outside funds to assist with the requirement we face to replace lead water lines,” said Lutz. “These unfunded mandates should be a priority” for the county’s unused ARPA funds.
The council also heard an update on the Comprehensive Asset Management Plan being drafted by engineering firm Prein&Newhoff.
The engineer reported that it would cost $3.6 million to replace just the lead service lines; if the mains are replaced at the same time, the cost would rise to $5.9 million.
The initial estimate for installing sewers and running the lines to Kalamazoo would be $18 million. It would likely cost more to go south due to the distance.
Replacing the water lines is required by the State of Michigan. The village does not have funds for either the water lines or the sewer project.
Once again, the council raised questions for the South Kalamazoo County Fire Authority (SKCFA) regarding its budget. Council member Kathy Mastenbrook, whose professional experience is in finance and accounting, requested:
An explanation of carryover items that are not listed in the budget.
An explanation of the “Assigned Items” category, which is not detailed in the budget.
Clarification on what was purchased in the “Capital Outlay” items category.
What is being purchased in the “FY Allocations” category.
This is the third year that the council has questioned the authority’s budget. In 2022, the village approved the budget after the authority made changes to its purchasing policy.