Traverse City Record-Eagle

Our Views

May 1, 2014

Editorial: City right to invest in water, beaches

Just when some Traverse City officials were talking about using some of the city’s bulging fund balance to offer city residents a modest tax break, reality intruded, as it so often does.

Worries about the state of the city’s storm sewer system have apparently scuttled the tax rebate idea for now. And maybe for good.

Mayor Michael Estes, who had championed the rebate idea, instead’ suggested the city set aside $280,000 for future storm water infrastructure improvements. There had been some opposition to the rebate idea on the city commission, and no vocal support for the idea at a recent budget meeting.

“If we can fund some of (the storm water system work) out of the general fund without a tax increase to our residents we should consider it,” Estes said.

The city recently received a $2 million asset management grant to map and film the condition of the city’s sanitary and storm sewer systems. But as city manager Jered Ottenwess pointed out, while sewer and water lines have a source of funding through user rates, storm sewers are budget “orphans” that don’t have a dedicated funding source. They are often neglected because of that.

But Traverse City — and the Grand Traverse area as a whole — can’t let neglect undo decades of work to find and eliminate sources of pollution that pour into Grand Traverse Bay, including from storm water systems.

Through years of painstaking work, health officials have discovered dozens of instances of residential sewer lines or floor drains from homes or businesses dumping directly into the bay. It took years to find and resolve those violations. But storm water systems continue to be a problem. Often, particularly after a large rainstorm or large snow melt, animal feces, gas and oil from streets and parking lots, salt. sand and fertilizers are washed into the bay.

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