2012-06-20 / News

Worth seeks meeting with county, state over sewers

BY MARGARET
WHITMER
Reporter

Worth Township officials want to meet with representatives from all state and local agencies to update them on the township’s difficulties in complying with a state order to build a sewer system.

The board on June 11 asked township attorney Greg Stremers to arrange a meeting with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the governor’s office, Sen. Mike Green, the township’s legal and bond attorneys and representatives from the Sanilac health and public works departments.

Essenmacher and board member Walt Badgerow would represent the board at the proposed meeting.

A date for the meeting had not been scheduled at press time.

The MDEQ has ordered the township to resume plans to build a sewer system to prevent pollution from escaping into area waterways from failed septic systems, or pay hefty penalties.

The order came swiftly following a Michigan Supreme Court ruling on May 17 that the township is responsible for taking care of the raw sewage.

According to a time frame devised by Assistant Attorney General Alan Hoffman, on behalf of the DEQ, the township must have a final plan by December, begin building the system by October 2013 and have it in operation by 2016, said Stremers.

The Michigan Supreme Court has agreed to decide who must pay for such a system, based on the Headlee Amendment. The township is arguing that being ordered to pay for it violates Headlee, which says the state cannot impose a public improvement without providing the funding.

The high court could rule as early as today - June 20, Stremers said.

“The Supreme Court will hear it much sooner than anticipated,” he said.

Stremers originally said it might take the high court about 21 days to decide on Headlee.

The court also was asked to consider a stay on the MDEQ-ordered timeline until the Headlee issue is decided. The MDEQ has opposed both motions.

Stremers said all agree a meeting with all local and state agencies involved is imperative.

“No decisions have been made,” he said. “I’m not saying sewers are going forward at this point. But I do think we need to prepare just in case that does happen. We need to root out some issues with the DEQ that have been lingering for a long time.”

Supervisor Phil Essenmacher also will arrange a meeting with Fleis & Vanderbrink, the engineering firm that designed a sewer system for the township. Work on the system was halted after the appeals court reversed a lower court ruling that ordered the system to be built.

The high court reversal of the appeals court ruling ends a mediated stay Worth negotiated last December for paying the engineering firm $975,000for the work it did.

Now the township is charged with putting the cost of the settlement on residents’ December tax rolls.

Essenmacher will ask the firm to wait until after the proposed meeting with local and state officials.

He also was asked by the board to contact grant and bond agencies, including SRF Consulting Group and the United States Department of Agriculture, to learn what funding is available.

The bond agents will attend any proposed meeting with local and state officials.

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