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Increased township water/sewer rates discussed

By Dana Casadei

The proposed 2024-2025 water and sewer rates were discussed at the Bloomfield Township Board of Trustees meeting on Monday, March 25, with many board members content with the proposal, and, if approved at their upcoming April 8 meeting, would mean a two percent increase for water rates, and four percent increase for sewer rates.

According to Noah Mehalski, director of public works, those increased rates were driven by a declining usage pattern across the industry, coupled with increasing regulations and raw material costs. Factors included were lead mitigation, emerging contaminant sampling and inflationary factors.

Mehalski said he gets asked all the time why Bloomfield Township members pay a different rate compared to others, all of which boils down to size, scale and scope, as well as taking a close look at how the community was developed compared to others in the area.

Since Bloomfield Township is such a spread out community there are fewer people on the system paying into each pipe. Fewer people paying into each pipe equals higher costs when comparing it to say a community like Birmingham, where 215 people pay into each mile of pipe versus the 113 people who pay into each mile of pipe in Bloomfield Township. 

Bloomfield Township distributes water that is produced by the Great Lakes Water Authority through the South Oakland County Water Authority, and sewer service is provided by the Oakland County Water Resource Commissioner.

While the reason for the increase in cost was one of Mehalski’s four key rate considerations for the 2024-2025 proposal, he also discussed the meter replacement program, which the department will continue to focus on throughout the year. 

This program was created to help replace the 52 percent of meters in the township that are over 15 years old, taking advantage of the technological updates to meters, and therefore giving the township the data to better accurately reflect the amount of water passing through the pipes. 

This new data being collected will be used to improve customer service and drive future rate considerations, and be a critical component to the future water and sewer rates, including the much-discussed switch to a tiered rate system. For now, the meter equivalency unit (MEU) structure is being used, a hot button issue among residents and board members. 

Multiple board members mentioned that they had voted for this structure because they knew it would only be temporary. Mehalski said that they are continuing to replace old meters and data is already being collected, a great start to a program many hope will be completed sooner rather than later. 

The MEU structure allows for billing of fixed fees based on the potential draw of the system that is determined by meter size. Bloomfield Township has historically experienced a decline in water usage per customer account. 

“I would not want anyone in charge of my sewer system except for director Mehalski,” said Trustee Stephanie Fakih. “But I’m not sure I can approve a rate with MEU, it doesn’t seem fair or like an appropriate metric.”

Mehalski said the data being collected through the new meters is incredibly accurate and will help the township slowly get off of fixed fees.

Other items of note included the major projects being worked on by the department of public works, including the capital improvement program, and multiple construction projects across Bloomfield Township.

“The more you look, the more you’re going to find, the more you’re going to need to fix,” Mehalski said.

Along with the meter updates, the department is currently putting new technology into place to inspect sewers. Instead of using costly cameras to collect data, sound waves are being used to help locate a leakage or blockage. When the sound is blocked, they know something must be going on, he said.

If the water and sewer rates are approved at the April 8 board meeting, they take effect retroactively to April 1, and will be first applied to billing at the end of April.


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