As previously reported, sewer rates are about to go up.  At last night’s meeting, the Columbia Township board voted on the new rates for residential customers, starting January 1st.  By lake.

Clark Lake $274.41

Vineyard Lake $238.11

Lake Columbia $208.41

The question most frequently asked about these increases is “why is Clark Lake’s rate higher than Vineyard Lake’s or Lake Columbia’s?”  Columbia Township Treasurer John Calhoun says it’s about the age of the Clark Lake system.  Clark Lake was first to install sewers, and the system is showing wear.  Grinder pumps and other infrastructure are being replaced, and that adds to the overall cost.

Unlike Vineyard Lake or Lake Columbia, Clark Lake’s construction debt has been paid off.  Vineyard Lake will pay off theirs in April 2023.  Lake Columbia’s debt service will end in 2024.  Affecting Lake Columbia’s rate is their cash balance.  At Lake Columbia, many sewer customers opted to pay for their installations up front rather than over time, they have larger customer base, and their debt was refinanced several years ago.  As a result their increase is not as high as Vineyard Lake.

But that still leaves the question of the SRI settlement.  During the lengthy litigation, Columbia Township withheld paying its share of the SRI debt.  To prevent a bond default, Jackson County stepped in and paid bondholders according to the agreement.  The settlement requires Columbia Township to restore Columbia’s proportional share to the County.  So, on December 20, 2022, Columbia Township will pay the County $550,000, which will come from various Columbia Township accounts.  Now that the litigation is over, SRI debt payments resume for Columbia Township sewer customers, including for Clark Lake.  As part of Clark Lake’s $274.71 quarterly bill, that amounts to $9.30.

Sewage flows from Columbia Township to Leoni Township where it is processed.  Columbia must pay Leoni for that service.  Costs tend to vary, but they  mostly go up. A recent change in maintenance providers also affects costs.  Up until summer, the Brooklyn DPW contractually handled maintenance issues including repair or replacement of individual grinder pumps and lift stations.  At that time, Brooklyn reevaluated their obligations and determined they could no longer continue the contract, and exercised a 60-day out.  The new provider, JK, has stepped in to cover those maintenance issues, but at an increased cost.