Douglas Officials: We're Back Where We Started Re: Special Assessment District For Water Lines
“We are right back to where we started: a special assessment district for a water line (to service new homes at the Fremont and Ellis streets area in the City of Douglas),” Saugatuck City Manager Bill LeFevere recently announced to his city council about what seems to be the only solution to a persistent problem the city faces there and other places across the municipality.
“This community simply did not install waterlines in every street (back when it set out to do so),” said LeFevere.
As the city grows, the problem will only compound, city officials concede.
In 2014, following public outcry, particularly by affected property owners, city officials withdrew a proposal to create the Freemont-Ellis Street Water Main Special Assessment District (near West Center Street), a mechanism that would generate funds to construct a water main to eliminate as many backyard “spaghetti connections” (substandard and unsuitable) and provide for present and future development.
If the city had decided that 100 percent of the cost for that work had to be borne by the nine homes benefiting from the water main, each property owner would have been forced to contribute $11,000 because the estimated cost then was $100,000.
The other option was to have both the city and property owners contribute to the cost, though the exact split was still a matter of discussion.
“We have no legal obligation to run water to them,” Douglas City Council Member Lisa Greenwood said back in 2014, suggesting the developer needed to shoulder the responsibility.
The main lines are owned by the city, but managed by the local water treatment plant run through the Kalamazoo Lake Sewer & Water Authority (KLSWA).
The issue has caused confusion as to who does actually bear responsibility.
In his letter dated October 8, 2015, KLSWA Manager Daryl VanDyke asserts the city is in “violation” of the February 1, 2001 water agreement because it allowed a privately owned, two-inch water main connection to three separate single-family homes on Heirloom Court (off of Ellis Street), and extending south from the existing eight-inch public water main in Center Street.
City officials contest that claim, saying that KLSWA was not only aware of the situation, but may have actually approved the arrangement back in 2004.
Furthermore, city officials claim they have been waiting for KLSWA for two years to provide the city with a mapping of all the water lines throughout the city, particularly via a GIS (geographic information system).
“There are a lot of connections that are not standard,” said LeFevere about water lines in many locations throughout the city.
“Developers and real estate (brokers and property owners) don’t ask the right questions when it comes to water lines; and the city is not part of that transaction (the conversation between developer, KLSWA, seller and buyer),” he said.