Special Assessment Districts To Pay For New Water Service Lines Approved By Douglas Officials
After a year of discussions, opportunity for public input, the raising of legal questions by some residents and previously tabling the issue, City of Douglas officials Monday night established the special assessment districts (Freemont-Ellis, Whittier-First, and McVea) to install water main pipes and fix “spaghetti lines,” home service lines that connect to neighboring service lines instead of properly directly connecting to the water main.
The project also includes the replacement of service lines that contain lead components as determined by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (the service line refers to the connection from the water main into their house or building).
Previously reported projections puts the cost at some $545,000, with contributions from both private residents and public funds, but property owners within districts paying more than half.
Beneficiaries and the city will contribute to the interest charged for the money the city borrows for the project, which is expected to start in next year’s construction season.
City officials are uncertain how, historically speaking, certain properties throughout the city—not just in the already established districts— came to have non-conforming water lines, but, as Douglas City engineer Brian Vilmont of Prein & Newhof has indicated, they do require improvements.
“We do need to come up with a mechanism to alert potential future property buyers that this is something (proper water lines) they need to check with the city or city engineer about,” Douglas City Manager Bill LeFevere told council Monday.
Before establishing the districts, the Douglas City Council set to the task in previous months establishing an ordinance so as to not surprise residents with an economic burden and to assure “fair and equitable” treatment of residents.
The council, for example, recently amended the ordinance to add “non-hardship” situations to the existing language for the deferment of assessment fees, thereby giving all residents—those who would traditionally be considered to be under economic distress and otherwise—an opportunity to defer their payments.
That newly adopted amendment allows for flexibility and gives homeowners the one-time choice of the following: pay for the assessment as soon as it is due; pay in increments for the next 10 years (or before); or defer the payment until death (via mortgage security on real property) or the sale or transfer of the property.
For property that is vacant at the time of deferment, the deferred assessment would be payable upon construction requiring connection to the system.
“It’s ultimately up to the taxpayer to chose an option?” affected resident Janice Krakowski, who resides within the Freemont-Ellis district, asked Douglas officials Monday night.
The response by officials was affirmative.
Under the ordinance provisions, the city requires “that each and every house shall have a single service connection” and “that each and every separate building used for business purposes shall have a separate connection.”
“The preferred methodology for the allocation of construction costs (under the city’s code) will be based on a front-foot basis for the length of water main that runs in front of each property,” states a September 14 memo LeFevere to the Douglas City Council.
“Individual property owners will be responsible for the cost of the water main that runs in front of their property and the ‘water system’ will be responsible for the footage that runs through the intersections or along public rights-of-way.”
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).