Board places moratorium on water ordinance changes

Amendments would allow residents to disconnect for lawn sprinkling

GRAND BLANC TWP. — The Grand Blanc Township Board of Trustees has approved a moratorium on new provisions in the water ordinance that would allow residents to disconnect from the municipal water system for irrigation.

The moratorium sets the stage to potentially reverse one of the final decisions made by the outgoing Board of Trustees in October. The amendments were set to take effect Dec. 5.

Township Treasurer Mark Kilmer cast the lone dissenting vote on the moratorium, saying it would be unfair to pause the previous board’s ruling at this time.

“We don’t know how much it will increase costs, if anything,” Kilmer said. “We’re telling people they can’t touch their groundwater. I don’t think that’s fair.”

Kilmer added that, since no one is going to water their lawn in January, the board has time to study the changes.

The recently-completed water rate study indicated that allowing some residents to disconnect could add up to 3 percent to the cost of water for all customers in the township. The extent of the increase would be determined by the number of customers who disconnect, and would be necessary to make up for the loss of revenue for the township.

Jeff Sears, Department of Public Works director, said 3 percent is a “worst-case scenario” that would occur if all irrigation customers disconnected.

“We know that won’t happen,” Sears said.

However, he has concerns about the way the ordinance is written, particularly as it affects residents in the Grand Reserve condominiums who initiated the discussion of disconnection.

“My concern has to do with the way those customers are classified,” Sears said. “Those accounts are currently classified as commercial accounts. My concern is the language that allows residential premises to disconnect isn’t specific enough, and ultimately may not allow them (Grand Reserve residents) to disconnect.

“So, we wanted to bring this to this township board so you can have your input on it and hopefully make a decision to either move forward and, more than likely, have to revise it in early 2021, or repeal the current language and also revise it and adopt it again.”

Sears said it’s likely some residents would apply for reconnection in late winter to allow time to line up contractors and make other preparations.

Some current board members questioned the motives of the previous board.

Trustee Paul White, who said he favors repealing the ordinance and starting over, commented, “We had a board that, previously, seemed to pass a lot of ‘poison pill-type’ of things. They seemed to enjoy doing that.”

Clerk David Robertson concurred.

“I think this (ordinance) falls into the same category of things that basically warrant prompt action as a means of wiping the slate clean,” he said.

Robertson referred to the dismissal of Superintendent Dennis Liimatta as another example, and said both decisions need “corrective action.” (See related article.)

Robertson added that time was of the essence with regard to imposing a moratorium.

“If this ordinance is allowed to go into effect Dec. 5, from that point forward, we’re obligated to operate under it,” he said. “If we receive applications, we have to operate based on it being the policy of the township. If we’re all in agreement that this is not a good policy, we need to act now to suspend its implementation.”