Douglas Officials Discuss How To Assess Residents In Proposed Water Main Districts
Douglas officials and the city engineer said during Monday night’s city council discussion they are being the most equitable they can be in terms of who pays how much in the water main special assessment districts being proposed for different parts of the city.
Contributions from both private residents and public funds are expected to pay for the estimated $545,000 project—with property owners within districts paying more than half—to fix “spaghetti lines” or “side yard connections,” which makes for a water supply infrastructure that is below the required standards at the local and state level, per Michigan Department of Environmental Quality regulations.
The project entails the installation of an underground water main in areas where it is needed and a way for residents to have easy access to it. Besides paying for a specified frontage charge per foot, property owners will also be responsible for finding and paying for a way to connect to the water main (from the public right-of-way to their home).
“Somebody has to pay for it,” Douglas engineer Brian Vilmont of Prein & Newhof told Douglas council. “It’s not a cheap endeavor, but you also have to understand that it is not a for-profit endeavor either.” Furthermore, Vilmont said that there is a “public benefit” to those property owners outside the three districts: overall enhancement to the public utility system.
The three districts have different scenarios with different associated costs. Residents in the Freemont-Ellis Water Main (Fremont Street starting at its intersection with South Union Street going west on Fremont Street to its intersection with Ellis Street and then north on Ellis Street to its intersection with Center Street) are expected to represent a little over half the estimated total project cost of $159,000.
While residents within the the other two districts—the Whittier-First District (Whittier Street starting at its intersection with Center Street going south to First Street and proceeding west on First Street to its intersection with May Avenue) and the McVea District (McVea Drive starting at its intersection with Campbell Road going south on McVea Drive to its southern intersection with Westshore Golf Course Redevelopment)—can expect to pay more.
“To charge those residents that will directly benefit from the improvements (via) front footage does seem to be the most equitable way of doing,” said Vilmont. “It is not an unprecedented way.”
There are other properties that suffer from substandard water main connections around the city and officials discussed they may also decide to tackle those areas in the future. The currently proposed specials districts came to be because they represented a “critical mass” factor, explained Douglas City Manager Bill LeFevere.
The process still requires steps to provide opportunities for public examination as well as a public hearing before city council gives its final approval.