Problematic Water Main Hook-Ups Rears Its Head In Douglas Again With New Development
As in the spring, City of Douglas officials are back to square one regarding the urgent need for a main line from the water supply system in a central part of the city—sections of Freemont, Mixer, Ellis and Heirloom streets—as development continues to grow.
Brian Vilmont of the engineering firm Prein&Newhof was present at Monday’s city council meeting to provide officials an update on the issue.
Previously, the problem was brought to light by two new homes which have since gotten connected: one, via a “spaghetti line,” the other, by means of a water main.
Spaghetti lines are connections through pipes running to other homes—usually in backyards—but not to a main line in the water supply system.
Now, the issue was instigated by a developer planning to build a three-unit townhouse in that area and have completed by the spring, Vilmont told council.
The area, constituting about nine homes, is serviced by proper public sewer connections, but not proper water hook-ups.
Officials are aware there are other properties—although not all have been uncovered—throughout the city that do not have access to an underground water main and are not adequately connected.
“We have no legal obligation to run water to them,” said Douglas City Council Member Lisa Greenwood, suggesting the developer needs to shoulder the responsibility.
The main lines are owned by the city, but managed by the local water treatment plant, Kalamazoo Lake Sewer & Water Authority (KLSWA).
In April following strong public outcry, the council put on hold plans to create the Freemont-Ellis Street Water Main Special Assessment District, thereby proposing to construct a water main to eliminate as many backyard spaghetti connections as possible and provide for future development.
That would be a municipal project. However, the question of who would pay for it remained—and remains—up in the air.
If the city should decide that 100 percent of the cost should be borne by the nine homes benefiting from the water main, each property owner would be expected to contribute $11,000 because the estimated cost is $100,000.
The other option is to have both the city and property owners contribute to the cost.
“We do need to tell the developer that this (property) needs to be serviced by public water supply. However, this does not address how that is going to happen,” says Douglas City Manager Bill LeFevere, referring to the three-unit townhouse that is going up.
Also at issue for the city council is the necessity to determine how that will occur.
Council members said they don’t want to be “prejudging the planning commission and the DDA (the Douglas Downtown District Authority),” as both of these entities still have to approve the three-unit townhouse.
The developer would need to prove the development has adequate water service in order to get an occupancy permit from city.