Park water plant talks likely to resume this year

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published January 8, 2014

GROSSE POINTE PARK — As the economy continues to improve — and water rates from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department continue to rise — city leaders say they expect to take another look at the possibility of building their own water plant.

“I expect the council will be visiting that (issue in 2014),” City Council member Robert Denner said in response to a question from resident Fred Olds at a Dec. 9 City Council meeting.

Because of its location on Lake St. Clair, the Park is in a rare position: It could build its own water treatment plant and easily draw water from the lake.

“We are blessed,” Mayor Palmer Heenan said. “One foot is all we have to go” into Lake St. Clair to get into the channel, where the water is “fast-moving.”

“I’m excited about it,” he continued. Heenan said the city is looking into the possibility of constructing a $15 million water treatment facility to serve its residents.

Grosse Pointe Farms is the only other Pointe with its own water treatment plant, a facility on Kerby Road that serves residents of the Farms and neighboring Grosse Pointe City. DWSD still handles sewage disposal for the Farms and City, and Park leaders expect they would stay with DWSD for that service, as well.

Previously, City Manager Dale Krajniak explained that the Park has already undertaken studies in recent years to prepare for possible water plant construction, and they could place an intake line at Windmill Pointe Park near the marina.

Krajniak said the Park explored the possibility of connecting to the Farms’ water plant. However, the cost to upgrade that plant’s infrastructure to handle the increased demand, as well as the cost to connect to the plant and transport the water, is nearly as much as the cost for the Park to build its own facility.

The Park already has some of the required state and federal permits that would pave the way for the plant — City Council member Daniel Clark said those permits “are still in working order” and haven’t lapsed — but at the Dec. 9 meeting, Krajniak said they hadn’t yet acquired a costly state permit to actually allow for construction.

Unlike most other metro Detroit communities on the DWSD system, the Park hasn’t signed a 30-year contract for water service with DWSD.

“We’re in a position where we’re not bound with a 30-year contract with DWSD,” Krajniak said.

At press time, it wasn’t known when the council would take up the water plant question again, but officials are expected to continue these discussions this year.

The city is now more than halfway through payments on a 20-year, $22 million bond for sewer separation, and officials say the Park is expected to pay that off over the next few years. Even before the city finishes those payments, Heenan has pointed out that with having already paid off more than half of the sewer separation bond, the Park could take on more than $11 million in new debt.

“We’ve got to do it on our own,” Heenan said of building a water plant. “We will save money for our residents. And we’ll have control.”