Douglas Officials Still Dealing With Water Main Assessment District Funding Issues
Faced with challenges, including possible lawsuits, on the part of some residents, the Douglas water main special assessment district plan continues to be a conundrum for city officials.
The city council continued its discussion at Monday’s meeting, but took no action on the issue. Officials say they want to find a way to make residents see “the value” of the proposed water system infrastructure improvements and they are hoping that enlisting the help of the local fire department will provide the city more tools to make its case, namely do a fire safety review relative to water pressure and fire hydrants within the proposed districts.
A handful of residents have resisted the proposed special tax on their property, citing they are just fine with their water supply.
“We need something (a strong case for what the public benefit is) to hang our hats on,” noted Douglas City Council Member Lisa Greenwood. To which Douglas City Manager Bill LeFevere responded, “The public benefit is that they (property owners) will get a public water main in front of their property.”
Besides the districts the city has already identified, city engineers and staff admit there are other areas throughout the city where “spaghetti lines,” backyard or side-yard connections exist and property owners need a direct connection to a water main.
However, the districts targeted for the special assessment at this time have not reached a “critical mass,” but contain properties that require a “specific need,” says LeFevere.
Despite officials previously providing estimates of how much money the residents within the special assessment districts would be expected to pay and how much the city would contribute to the proposed improvements ($545,000 for all three districts—taxpayers were told they would be expected to pay more than half of that), officials Monday mulled over and had diverse opinions on who would pay for what and how much.
While noting that the problem is widespread beyond the already designated districts, Douglas City Council Member Patricia Lion noted, “If we have to bring it up to code—state, federal and fire safety—then I feel we have an obligation to have everybody in the city pay for it and raise the water bill for everyone (rather than have a special city tax targeting specific homeowners).”
Douglas City Council Member Kathryn Mooradian responded with, “I would be in favor of that if it (the spaghetti lines and need for a water main) were truly all over the city, but it’s not. It’s in pockets.”
Officials also discussed the complexity of trying to figure out a culprit, as various entities were—and are still—involved in the reviewing process.
The city and the Kalamazoo Lake Sewer and Water Authority years back were involved in approving water connection for three properties on Heirloom Lane, now found to be problematic.
The proposed assessment districts are 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 on the city’s west side.