Water rates to rise again in Park

City leaders hope to have more data on own water plant later this summer

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published May 28, 2014

GROSSE POINTE PARK — As the city prepares to increase water and sewer rates for residents yet again — new rates take effect July 1 — officials say they intend to look more seriously than ever this year at possibly building their own water plant.

While the rate for water itself is only going up slightly — by another 5 cents per 1,000 cubic feet of water — the flat fee is going up by more than $10 per billing cycle, meaning that the Park will be charging $36.16 every two months instead of the $25.98 it had been charging.

“The council looks at this every year with some amount of helplessness because DWSD (raises the rates each year),” City Council member Robert Denner said, referencing the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.

The City Council voted unanimously in favor of these increases at a meeting May 12. City Manager Dale Krajniak said these increases equal “the exact amount being issued to us” by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. The city also is retaining the $5 annual capital project cost for another year, as approved by the council.

“All we’re doing is passing on the increase in cost that Detroit Water (and Sewerage Department) has assessed,” Mayor Palmer Heenan said.

Officials are saying that because of the Park’s location on Lake St. Clair, it might be time to build their own water plant to serve residents. Heenan said their studies seem to indicate that such a facility would cost about $15 million to build. The Park is looking at a plant to prepare clean drinking water only; sewage would continue to be handled by DWSD, officials said. That’s the same scenario as in Grosse Pointe Farms, which has its own water plant — serving residents in the Farms and Grosse Pointe City — but sends sewage to Detroit for treatment.

“The time may well have arrived when we really, quite seriously, look at (constructing) a water plant,” City Council member Daniel Clark said.

At current interest rates, Heenan said, the city probably could service its residents with a new water plant for about $900,000 annually. By contrast, DWSD is costing the Park about $1.1 million each year, he said.

“(A water plant) should break even,” Heenan said.

Clark said that a water plant would put them at “no future exposure” to increases from DWSD.

Clark said that almost 20 years ago, the Park took a similar step that ultimately resulted in savings for the community by separating the storm and sanitary sewers. That project cost the city about $24 million, but he said it’s believed to save them about $1 million each year now because street water runoff is no longer treated as part of the sanitary sewage system. Clark said the Park can expect increases in water rates “year after year” from DWSD, especially as DWSD’s aging system continues to lose big customers like Flint.

“We should have more specific (cost) estimates … later this summer,” Denner said of a possible Park water plant. “But for now, Detroit’s increasing the rates, and we have to collect them.”