Discussion of sewer capacity expansion resumes, decision expected soon

GRAND BLANC TWP. — Proposed growth in the commercial and industrial sectors, and concerns about septic field failures and illegal hookups, have renewed the discussion of the multimillion dollar Kearsley Creek sewer interceptor project.

“It’s been planned for a number of years,” said Grand Blanc Township Superintendent Dennis Liimatta. “It’s a long-term way to handle the capacity for build-out needs for the county from now and into the foreseeable future. We’re being asked to participate (with the Genesee County Drain Commission) because a large portion (of the proposed county project) runs through Grand Blanc Township.”

The drain commission has said projected growth will place additional stress on the system that runs through the township, and could result in overflows during wet weather conditions.

In addition, the northern Oakland County communities of Holly, Springfield and Brandon townships and the Village of Ortonville are serviced by septic systems, many of which have failed or are failing, discharging into the environment and flowing into Kearsley Creek and Grand Blanc Township.

“We already had it in our capital improvement plan,” Liimatta said. “Upgrades have been planned for sewer capacity to meet the needs of our buildout. (The drain commission) asked for our participation (in the Kearsley Creek interceptor project) rather than upgrading our own systems. The difference is, instead of doing our own upgrades and owning it, we would be buying the capacity from them and they will put in a bigger interceptor.”

Initial projections set the total cost around $32,832,000, of which $9,340,023 would be the responsibility of Grand Blanc Township. The county and township will seek grant funding to offset those costs.

The township began discussing upgrading its system back in 2004, but the recession put a halt to those considerations.

“There are other areas we need to address as part of our overall project,” said Liimatta. “We had it planned at about $14 million … (that) will have to be adjusted to today’s dollars, and everything costs more. The total impact will be considerably higher. If we participate in the (Kearsley Creek interceptor), and the cost remains at $9.3 million, we still have (additional) projects.”

The township will float bonds to pay for the work, although American Rescue Plan Act funding could be used toward the total payout.

“Infrastructure is one area where can spend that money,” Liimatta said.

Currently, the township isn’t experiencing any imminent threat to the system, but as the south end of the township continues to grow in leaps and bounds, that could change.

Among the projects planned for that sector are Tech Village, a commercial development slated for nearly 200 acres on the north side of Baldwin Road, and expansion of the Ascension- Genesys campus, as well as the South Holly Road corridor.

Looking at the long-term potential for growth, the southwest corner of the township has thousands of acres of undeveloped property which could accommodate additional buildout over the coming decades, Liimatta said.

“We know, as the south end of the township gets built out, we’re going to have to increase capacity,” he said. “We continue to monitor sewer flows. To be prepared for any type of buildout, we are going to have to (increase capacity). It just makes sense from a long-range planning standpoint.”

The township board of trustees heard a presentation from the drain commission June 1, and will hear more from their own Department of Public Services director June 15.

Liimatta said he expects the board to make a decision by July. If all goes as planned, construction could commence in 2022 or 2023.

“We’re going to do something, we know we’re going to expand capacity,” Liimatta said. “If it makes sense to partner with the county drain commission versus doing it ourselves, we’ll do that. We still have to do a whole cost benefit analysis.”