By KATIE MORELL
Capital News Service
LANSING — If passed, Proposal 2 may considerably help Monroe County’s wastewater treatment system, according to the Michigan Municipal League.
Proposal 2, the clean water bond, will be on the Nov. 5 statewide ballot.
The proposal would let the state “sell $1 billion in revenue bonds over 10 years to provide low-interest loans to our homeowners to pay for repairs to sewer systems and replacement of crumbling, outdated sewage treatment plants,” said the Lansing-based Municipal League.
“For the first time, Proposal 2 enables smaller communities to borrow money to fix those septic systems that are causing problems,” said Donald J. Stypula, MML manager of environmental affairs. “That is a great thing.”
Monroe and its neighboring counties, villages and townships will greatly benefit from the proposal, Stypula said.
He noted that Monroe has experienced severe problems with pollutants in the River Raisin from such things as farm fields, wastewater discharges and runoff from urban and suburb areas.
“This proposal would give cities like Monroe a significant incentive to build facilities so trucks can come into plants, dump their waste and leave instead of dumping it in farm fields and empty lots, where it can filter into the river after a rain,” Stypula said.
If the proposal passes, Monroe would be able to apply for low-interest loans that would be paid back in 20 years to do repairs to the existing sewage treatment facilities, he said.
“Those townships can apply for low-interest loans to the township government and the township can turn around and offer a grant or loan to homeowners who have faulty septic systems,” Stypula said.
Others in Lansing also support Proposal 2.
“Anyone who cares about River Raisin or Lake Erie should vote for this,” said Rep. Randy Richardville, R-Monroe.
He said Monroe “made a lot of mistakes in the past” with wastewater planning and “we need to fix them.”
“My top priority is to clean up the river,” Richardville said.
Sen. Beverly Hammerstrom, R-Monroe, also favors the proposal with some hesitation.
“My main holdup is the increasing cost of doing it, but it would create more money for the state to utilize,” Hammerstrom said.
On the other side, some may think problems are not bad now, so the proposal would not be needed immediately.
“It will have no impact on what we have on the drawing boards now, but may in the future,” said Michael O’Connell, director of finance for the city of Monroe. “Even though it will have no immediate effect, it is a good idea.
“In the future when we need to update our facilities, the fund will be there,” he said.
Others expressed enthusiasm for the proposal, and would be excited if it were voted in.
“It couldn’t come fast enough,” said Jim Vaslo, Berlin Township supervisor.
Vaslo explained that Berlin has a treatment plant that was built in the 1970s and would do well with repairs. He said the biggest problem is with infiltration. When ground water gets into the sewer lines, Berlin Township ends up treating that water too. The sewage system needs to plug up the fractures where that water is coming in.
“I just hope we can capture some of the money,” Vaslo said.
David Roberts, superintendent of the wastewater plant and water department in Berlin Township, expressed the same concern about money.
He said that it is hard for Berlin Township to qualify for the loans. “We need money and help from the federal and state governments,” Roberts said.
Although Roberts expressed some distress over the issue, he did feel that there is “no question there is a need for” Proposal 2.
With all the worries that money may not help smaller communities, Stypula offered some words of comfort to residents: “The proposal will not just work for the city of Monroe, but also benefits the less populated rural townships in Monroe County.”
© 2002, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism
By KATIE MORELL