2018-01-11 / Viewpoint

Councilman explains water increases

I have been contacted by many of you regarding the recently passed increases in Burton water rates at the Jan. 4, Burton City Council meeting. A brief answer is Genesee County, effective this past September, passed on a $25,000 per month increase. This increase included costs for the 42-inch, $18 million water line going along Potter Road and through For Mar. This pipeline became necessary when Flint backed out of the KWA. According to Genesee County Water Commissioner Jeff Wright, failure to build this pipeline would result in a one to two-year delay in getting KWA water to the rest of Genesee County, including Burton. As was explained by Jeff Wright to the Burton City Council, due to continued anticipated double-digit Detroit water increases, Genesee County residents, by building the $18 million pipeline, would see a net savings from not seeing the anticipated Detroit water increases for the next couple of years. By purchasing water from the KWA versus Detroit, Genesee County residents will save on the anticipated Detroit water increases, which would not be possible without the pipeline.

Also, Genesee County passed along a rate increase for their services as well. It was explained by their representative Kevin Sylvester that the Genesee County Water Department had not had a raise in the past four years and increasing costs necessitated this increase. The Burton City Council delayed this vote for two months, looking for other alternatives. During this two-month period, the city of Burton was absorbing the additional $25,000 per month, which Genesee County is now billing Burton. Our water fund has cash reserves of approximately $1.8 million. This money is set aside for emergencies, such as water main breaks. When we have a water main break everything must be costed out (i.e. parts, labor, etc.).

Also, due to the declining function of the city’s water lines in the tower district (south end of Burton), the city invested $21.5 million to update the system. I am sure you have been seeing the work crews for the past few years in the south end.

So, what has been happening in totality is double digit Detroit water increases, investing in our Burton water system and funding the KWA Water system to get us off Detroit water and their double digit water increases.

Genesee County Water Commissioner Jeff Wright, when asked by the Burton City Council if resident water bills would be decreasing, said that would not happen. He said Burton residents would benefit by not having to pay for the anticipated continued Detroit water rate increases. He did tell us, due to the KWA water line now being built, the water increases everyone has been experiencing should not continue.

Also, Genesee County residents, through their municipality, now have is a voice on their KWA water board. This was not the case with the Detroit water system. Our elected Genesee County representatives were being told what Genesee county residents would pay. You now have a voice, as Burton now has a seat on the KWA board.

I hope this helps. – Vaughn Smith, Burton City Council, Finance Chairman

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