Grosse Pointe Farms receives state funds for Highland Park water pumping infrastructure

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published January 10, 2024

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GROSSE POINTE FARMS — State funding announced at the end of 2023 is going to be a big help to Grosse Pointe Farms this year.

House Bill No. 4292, which was approved by the Michigan House and Senate in December 2023 and signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Dec. 18, includes $500,000 to reimburse the Farms for costs the city has incurred while maintaining Highland Park Pumping Station equipment in the Farms.

“As we continue to make new investments to move Michigan forward, it’s equally important for us to correct the issues of our past — including by reimbursing the residents of Grosse Pointe Farms who have unfairly held the responsibility of maintaining Highland Park’s pumping station for years,” state Sen. Kevin Hertel, D-St. Clair Shores, said in a prepared statement. “Addressing this issue is long overdue, and I am grateful to my colleagues in the legislature for approving the funding necessary to take care of this financial liability. This appropriation is truly a win for Grosse Pointe Farms as it allows them to redirect their resources to what really matters: addressing the needs of their community.” 

Highland Park, which formerly operated its own water treatment plant to provide clean drinking water to its residents, shared an intake line with the Farms into Lake St. Clair. Lake water was pumped from the Farms intake — located on the Farms water treatment plant property — to Highland Park’s own water treatment facility.

The Highland Park water treatment plant was shuttered by the state in 2012, which is when the city started getting its drinking water from what is now the Great Lakes Water Authority, or GLWA. Many other municipalities also purchase their drinking water from the GLWA, including Harper Woods, Grosse Pointe Woods, Grosse Pointe Shores and Grosse Pointe Park. The Farms uses its own water treatment plant to provide drinking water to its residents and to residents of Grosse Pointe City. The Farms and City do, however, use GLWA to dispose of their sewage, as do all the other Pointes and Harper Woods.

“For more than a decade, the residents of Grosse Pointe Farms have paid to maintain the pumping station abandoned by Highland Park,” Farms Mayor Louis Theros said in a prepared statement after the bill was approved. “I thank Governor Whitmer, Senator Hertel and the state legislature for providing much-deserved relief to our community. It has been a long time coming, but this collaborative effort underscores the power of state and local government working together.” 

The funding was included in the bill as a public infrastructure grant.

“We’re really pleased and thankful that Sen. Hertel included new legislation to provide funds for the maintenance of joint infrastructure in Grosse Pointe Farms with Highland Park,” Farms City Manager Shane Reeside said. “For the last several years, we’ve continued to maintain joint infrastructure like intakes and our wet wells and things of that sort.”

In the past, he said Highland Park had shared those maintenance costs with the Farms. The state grant will “provide reimbursement for some of the costs” the Farms has incurred, Reeside said.

He added that the city also hopes to use some of the funds for capital projects, such as replacing concrete at their wet well.

However, while city officials welcome the funding, it won’t address future maintenance expenses.

“In a sense, it makes us whole (for the moment) and provides (for) capital improvements,” Reeside said. “It does not provide a solution long-term because, obviously, those structural (elements) will need to be maintained in the future.”

The bill, now a public act, is slated to take effect Feb. 13.