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December 7, 2013

Sewer plant fix up for debate

TRAVERSE CITY — City and township sewer users could face significant rate increases over the next three years to replace treatment plant components that convert sewage into near-drinkable water.

The city-based water treatment plant uses special filters known as membranes, which are close to exceeding their useful life and need to be replaced, according to a report by an engineering consultant from CH2M HILL, the firm that operates the plant.

The replacement cost for the membranes is $825,000 per tank, and there are eight tanks for a total estimated cost of $6.6 million.

“The cost to the city could be substantial,” said Mayor Michael Estes. “Somehow, I think we are going to have to deal with some kind of rate increases.”

The Grand Traverse County townships of Garfield, East Bay, Peninsula, Acme, as well as Elmwood in Leelanau County, all use the plant and would pick up a little less than half the cost if the city decides to dive into repairs now.

That percentage could change; the city would pick up 60 percent of repair costs if officials wait until after 2014, when the townships’ 8 percent plant lease agreement expires.

Some township officials are hesitant and want to learn more before committing to repairs.

“It’s entirely possible we need to do something, but I’m skeptical,” said Chuck Korn, Garfield Township’s supervisor. “I think the desire is to do it when the township is responsible for paying 48 percent.”

City commissioners and officials with the Grand Traverse County Board of Public Works -- who represent the townships -- will meet in a joint study session on Monday at 7 p.m. in the Governmental Center to receive a report from CH2M HILL.

The consultants recommend the city and townships replace one or two membranes early in 2014 and set aside enough money in 2015 and 2016 to replace remaining membranes as they fail.

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