Water authority raises water, sewage rates

Melvindale residents to see higher bills

Sunday Times Newspapers

MELVINDALE – The Great Lakes Water Authority is increasing the city’s water rates by 3.8 percent and its sewage rates by 6.3 percent, Public Works Director Larrie Ordus said.

The Detroit-based GLWA is the regional water authority for the southeast Michigan counties of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb.

Mayor Stacy Bazman said the rate increase, which the City Council approved, is what GLWA is charging the city, which in turn will be passed on to the city’s residential and business customers.

“The first memo that Great Lakes sent out, I set up another meeting with them,” Bazman said. “I met the Wayne County rep, and we were able to negotiate a lower rate.”

City Administrator Richard Ortez said residential water bills are based on three main components: water, sewage and the cost of operations. GLWA controls what it charges for water and sewage, while the city controls the cost of operations component. There is also a $6.21 meter fee and a $9 recycling fee applied to each bill.

Ortiz said last year’s increases were 7 percent for sewage, 8 percent for water and 8 percent for operations.

He said this coming year GLWA was going to pass on a 12.7 percent increase for sewage (instead of 6.3 percent) and 5.9 percent for water (now 3.8 percent). He said the city is not increasing the cost of operations component of the bill in the coming fiscal year.

“Our total overall increase to a water bill is 3.8 percent, and that water bill is going up $5.64 for the minimum water bill,” Ortiz said. “The rates are effective July 1 when GLWA will be raising rates.”

Bazman said it is frustrating that GLWA’s increases are putting the city in a position to delay much needed capital expenditures to the water and sewage system to prevent residential bills from increasing even more.

Councilwoman Michelle Land said she is struggling to understand the reasons GLWA continues to raise its rates.

Ordus said he also continues to question the increases.

“We are up there fighting with them all the time,” he said. “GLWA has eight people in there and I ask them many a time where they are streamlining and what they are doing to cut costs. I haven’t gotten an answer yet.”

City Attorney Lawrence Coogan said GLWA determines the rates it charges communities based on each city’s usage.

“A smaller usage community is charged a higher rate, unfortunately,” Coogan said. “They also charge more if you have separate storm water and sewage systems, which we have. Communities that have combined sewage and storm (water) lines actually pay less, which makes no sense to me, but that’s what they do.”

Coogan said Detroit is one of the bigger communities that does not have separate sewage and storm water systems.

Bazman said because Melvindale sewage waste is separate from rainwater it is more concentrated, and the city is charged more by GLWA for treating it.

A minimum Melvindale residential water bill will be $152.53 for 0 to 10 units of water each quarter, with a charge of $13.73 for each additional unit of water used.

(Sue Suchyta can be reached at sue.suchyta@yahoo.com.)