FARMINGTON HILLS — If all goes according to plan, the city should have a 3 million gallon water tower operating by the summer of 2014 to mitigate future water rate increases.
The City Council unanimously approved a resolution to contract with Oakland County to finance the tower and the infrastructure improvements necessary to make it work at the Division of Public Works facility near 12 Mile and Halsted. The county will issue an estimated $16.9 million in bonds to finance the tower, and the city will reimburse the county for the full cost. The county has a better bond rating than the city, so it can get a better interest rate.
Those designing the tower said it will save water customers approximately $3.5 million a year. The water tower will allow the city to control its peak-hour demand from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, which is a factor in determining the city’s rate.
“If we can provide storage in a water tank that supplies your peak-hour demand, it can really reduce the cost of your purchase of water from Detroit,” said Vicki M. Putala, an engineer with Orchard, Hiltz and McCliment.
City Manager Steve Brock said yearly water rate increases from the DWSD have frustrated City Council and staff.
“And for many years, there wasn’t anything we could do about it. We were precluded through contract provisions by DWSD, Detroit, the supplier of the water, but there is now something we can do about it,” said Brock, who called the water tower “an essential public facility.”
To educate residents, city officials and engineers working on the water tower project presented the plans to council during the meeting. No members of the public spoke about the tower, which will be positioned nearer to the I-275 and I-696 interchange than it will be to any residences.
Those designing the tower project looked back at the city’s past water demand and arrived at a tower big enough to hold 3 million gallons.
Cities are not penalized in their water rates for the amount of water they draw during the overnight hours, when most of the metro Detroit area is asleep. The city will fill the tower each night, then use the water during the day.
“When we look at the rate savings, with that volume of water, we’re able to reduce your peak-hour usage from the 38 million gallons a day that Mr. (Jody) Caldwell (chief engineer of the Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office) was showing to 21 million gallons a day. That results in a little over $3.5 million in savings every single year by being able to manage that peak draw from the city of Detroit,” said Putala.
The tank, under normal circumstances, will supply approximately the northern half of the city, but the tank’s size and design allow for fighting fires and other emergency use anywhere in the city.
“Where the location of this tower is proposed, it’s going to be able to supply water to your entire city,” said Putala.
Those making the presentation showed artistic renderings of the tower incorporated into photographs from several views. The tower’s tank would stand taller than the treetops.
“The tank is going to be a little taller than the cell tower that’s there currently. That cell tower is about 190 feet, and the tank is proposed to be about 215 feet to the top,” said Putala.
The tower’s pedestal will be 60 feet in diameter, and the tank at the top will be about 118 feet in diameter. The pedestal will house the controls.
The goal is to construct the tower’s foundation this year and build most of the tower next year. City Public Services Director Gary Mekjian said the DWSD might require a year of data from the city before rate benefits occur.
“The actual rate benefits may not hit, unless we can negotiate something earlier, may not hit until the summer of 2015,” said Mekjian.
The water tower will not make water rates decrease. The goal is to minimize future increases.
The city published legal notice of the plan to issue bonds April 29, which started a 45-day referendum for residents to gather at least 10 percent of Farmington Hills voters’ signatures on a petition to put the issue to a vote. That seems unlikely, as no residents at the meeting spoke about the tower plan.