Sewer rates to stay the same — for now

It appears Oxford Township is going to be charged more for sewer services, but officials decided against passing this increased cost on to local customers at this point.

Last week, the township board voted 7-0 to keep the sewer billing rates for its customers the same despite a proposal from the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) to increase the monthly rate the township is charged by 7.9 percent.

GLWA is a regional water and sewer authority that serves nearly 40 percent of the water customers in the state. GLWA currently provides water and wastewater services to 127 municipalities in seven southeastern Michigan counties, the equivalent of approximately 3.9 million customers.

Oxford’s decision to not raise customer rates was based on a unanimous recommendation from the township’s three-member water and sewer committee.

Trustee Jack Curtis, who chairs the committee, explained that after analyzing all the current figures and future projections, it was decided a rate increase was not needed at this time.

“That should (bring) a welcome sigh of relief (from sewer users),” he said.

The flat rate for non-metered customers – the majority of which are residential users – will remain $86 per Residential Equivalent Unit (REU) per quarter. Single family homes each have a value of 1 REU, whereas businesses may be assigned multiple REUs depending on what services they provide.

The rate for metered sewer customers will remain $30.64 per 1,000 cubic feet (Mcf).

However, the approved motion did include the caveat that “these sewer billing rates will be analyzed on a regular basis to determine necessary future rate adjustments.”

The last time the township raised sewer rates for both non-metered and metered customers was Oct. 1, 2013.

Under the proposed GLWA increase, beginning July 1, the township’s monthly sewer charge would go from $117,636 to an estimated $126,921.

“This is not (based on) an increase in the amount of (wastewater) flow that we send. This is the cost of doing business with the GLWA,” Curtis explained.

Eight municipalities in Oakland County are expected to experience monthly rate increases from the GLWA ranging from 2.6 percent to 15.9 percent. Three are expected to see rate decreases including Oxford Village (16.6 percent), Lake Orion (11.4 percent) and Orion Twp. (0.1 percent).

Treasurer Joe Ferrari noted he believes the township has to “start planning ahead” and think about charging sewer customers for repairs and/or improvements that will eventually need to be made to the local system, which was installed in the early 1970s.

“I appreciate that we’re (not raising rates now), but I really think, as the system ages, we need to set up some type of sewer debt service (charge) like we have for the water (system),” he said.

“I’m thrilled we’re paying all these bonds off, but there’s going to come a point where we’re not going to be able to do that,” noted Ferrari.

He was referring to the estimated $760,262 the board voted earlier that evening to pay to the Clinton River Water Resource Recovery Facility Drainage District for planned improvements to two wastewater treatment facilities in Pontiac.

The township’s sewer fund can handle this payment. As of April 1, it has a cash balance of $3.13 million.

 

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