Township water, sewer rates set for 2022-2023
By Lisa Brody
Bloomfield Township trustees unanimously approved the water and sewer fund budget and set rates for fiscal year 2022-2023, effective April 1, at their meeting on Monday, April 11.
Olivia Olsztyn-Budry, director of engineering and environmental services, explained the township operates and maintains the water system that delivers the water to customers and the sewer system that collects the wastewater for each customer. There are about 500 miles of buried pipe throughout the township, several pump stations, multiple master meter vaults and pressure reducing vaults, several thousand hydrants and valves, and several thousand manholes maintained by the township.
The township purchases water from Southeast Oakland County Water Authority (SOCWA) and sewage treatment services from the Oakland County Water Resources Office.
Early in 2021, the township hired Raftelis, a rates and financial consultant, to conduct a water and sewer rate study and make recommendations for changing the rate structure to better address customer types and usage types.
Tom Beckley of Raftelis presented the final draft report at the April 11 meeting, where the final analysis determined that it is the industry standard to apply fees to all meters. Currently, residents with secondary meters, used for irrigation, do not have an extra charge.
“Secondary meters have direct costs, more intensive use of the water system,” Beckley said. “It is not typical to give customers a second meter at no extra charge.”
Trustees determined that this year they will continue their billing, but in 2023-2024, they will levy a secondary meter charge.
Beckley said future consideration trustees can look at is transitioning to monthly billing rather than the current quarterly, and to make bills more manageable “which will make it easier to catch leaks.”
“Months and months of work has gone into this,” said township supervisor Dani Walsh. “We now agree postponing the changes to get the information out to the community is the best way to proceed.”
Beckley said they were working on a one page insert to explain and educate customers on the proposed changes and details of the billing, as well as to explain “the values of the service they are receiving.”
Olszten-Budry then presented the 2022-2023 proposed water and sewer rates, noting that estimated water rate charges are six percent higher for this year, with water variable rate at $6.47 per 1,000 gallons. The sewer variable rate is $11.09 per 1,000 gallons, and the sewer flat rate charge is $425.42 per quarter.
“In general, there is a decline in water purchase for Bloomfield Township,” she said. “I looked back to 1980, and this year our usage is the lowest ever, and we have more users and usage. It was a very wet year. It does fluctuate year-to-year.”
Olszten-Budry said the department plans to educate the public in fiscal year 2023 on the secondary meter fixed fee for implementation in fiscal year 2023-2024, and continue looking into implementing monthly billing capabilities and costs.
Walsh brought up the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) funding issue with Highland Park, in which that community's water bill arrearage has been absorbed by other local communities to make up the difference. Some Wayne and Macomb communities are withholding payments to GLWA over the issue..
“No one in Oakland County is doing anything because we are not direct consumers of GLWA,” she explained. However, “We're all writing letters to the governor. SOCWA has already sent their letter on behalf of Oakland County.”
Walsh plans to send a letter on behalf of Bloomfield Township.