PROJECT PARTNERS

This sign was recently placed at the Tawas City Shoreline Park pier, announcing the entities which are assisting with the rehabilitation/expansion of the structure. An update on the plan, among several other topics discussed, was provided during the June 3 meeting of the Tawas City Council.

TAWAS CITY – Among action on several other items during their June 3 meeting, the Tawas City Council unanimously adopted a resolution regarding water and sewer rates.

The updated document is the result of discussions which were had during the city’s budget workshop in April, said City Manager Annge Horning.

She added that the 2019-2020 budget which was adopted by officials during their previous meeting reflects these increases, and that the new rates will go into effect on Monday, July 1.

“The proposal includes freezing the water usage rate for this year, resulting in no increase, and instead shifting the increase to the sewer usage for a total increase of $0.86 per 1,000 gallons,” Horning advised in her background memo to the council.

She stated that, although the resolution document makes it appear as if the increases are more, it should be noted that the rates adjust annually on July 1, and the rate resolution was last approved two years ago.

“The proposal also includes charging non-taxed property owners a higher rate for sewer usage, based on the same percentage of difference that non-taxed property owners pay for water usage,” she continued.

“So these are the properties that are in the township, and then others that are tax-exempt,” Horning elaborated. “Right now in water, they pay a higher rate than our tax payers do, but in sewer they’re the same. So this proposal is to increase the sewer by the same proportion as the water is, for the non-taxed property owners.”

Mayor Ken Cook asked what the overall impact will be, when adding water and sewer together.

“Based on the average household use, it’s $3.01 a month,” Horning answered.

According to the resolution, the monthly ready-to-serve fees for water will be charged as follows, based on meter size:

Taxed property owners with a ¾-inch meter, $10; one-inch, $11; 1½-inch, $43; two-inch, $69.28; three-inch, $262.79; four-inch, $334.46; six-inch, $501.69; eight-inch, $887.60; and 10-inch, $1,006.

Non-taxed property owners with a ¾-inch meter, $15; one-inch, $16.50; 1½-inch, $64.51; two-inch, $103.94; three-inch, $394.24; four-inch, $501.76; six-inch, $752.64; eight-inch, $1,152.94; and 10-inch, $1,303.24.

Also effective July 1, the water commodity fee per 1,000 gallons will change from $5.21 to $5.34 for taxed property owners, and from $6.43 to $6.59 for non-taxed property owners.

It is noted in the resolution that beginning with the July 1, 2020 fiscal year, the commodity fee for all meter classifications and customers shall be increased by 2½ percent on the first day of each fiscal year.

As for sewer rates, the monthly ready-to-serve fees will be charged as follows, according to meter size:

Taxed property owners, non-metered or with a ¾-inch meter, $23.36; one-inch, $25.70; 1½-inch, $42.06; two-inch, $67.76; three-inch, $257; four-inch, $327.10; six-inch, $490.64; and eight-inch, $559.72.

Non-taxed property owners, either non-metered or with a ¾-inch meter, $56.08; one-inch, $61.69; 1½-inch, $100.94; two-inch, $162.63; three-inch, $616.86; four-inch, $785.09; six-inch, $1,177.64; and eight-inch, $1,516.48.

Effective July 1, the sewer commodity fee per 1,000 gallons will jump from $3.90 to $4.86 for taxed property owners, and from $3.90 to $5.99 for non-taxed.

For non-metered sewer charges – which is based on 3,500 gallons per month – the commodity fee will go from $13.65 to $17.01 for taxed property owners, and from $13.65 to $20.97 for non-taxed.

As outlined in the resolution, beginning with the July 1, 2020 fiscal year, the commodity charge for all meter classifications and customers shall be increased by 2½ percent on the first day of each fiscal year.

As previously reported, council members adopted a resolution in June 2017, which increased water and sewer rates for customers.

As noted in the document, beginning with the July 1, 2018 fiscal year, the commodity fee for all meter classifications and customers shall be increased by 2½ percent on the first day of each fiscal year. This also applies to sewer customers.

Horning had been cautioning for some time that the sewer rates were in need of adjustments, not only so the city can have money for some of its own projects, but also when considering the expensive capital improvements planned for the Tawas Utility Authority during the next several years.

Also proposed was an adjustment to the water ready-to-serve rates in the city.

“Last year at this time I reported that the difference in rates between the different size lines is not proportionate to the ratios recommended by the American Water Works Association,” Horning explained at the time.

She said all of the line sizes are based on ratio. “And our ratios are all over the place.” However, with the changes this will bring the city closer to where it needs to be, in terms of the recommendations.

“Basically, if you look at the ratios, what’s been going on is our larger commercial customers have been charged a lot more so that we can keep our residential rates for smaller connections at a lower fee,” Horning said. “So it’s time to offset that. We need to increase those residential ones so that we can lower the commercial ones, because they are charged a much higher rate than they should be.”

In separate action on June 3, the council unanimously adopted an ordinance to amend several of the zoning ordinance sections to add the riverfront district (RF).

As reported, after the city’s master plan was recently updated by Denise Cline of the Northeast Michigan Council of Governments, she began working on new language to the zoning ordinance to create a RF.

“The new district includes all the properties located between West Lake Street (US-23) and the Tawas River from Mathews Street to the mouth of the river at Ninth Avenue,” Horning explained.

“The purpose of the new district is to allow a mix of residential and low-impact commercial uses,” she stated.

Horning reminded the council that the planning commission reviewed the language for the zoning ordinance to create a RF at several meetings, also holding a public hearing on the matter in May.

Following the hearing, commission members recommended that the city council approve the proposed language and amend the zoning ordinance to incorporate same.

The first reading was conducted at the May 20 council meeting and, following the latest action by officials, the new ordinance will take effect on June 23.

Mayor Pro Tem Brian McMurray said he thinks this is a step in the right direction and he thanked the council for their efforts on the new RF district, adding that he knows of several citizens who appreciate it, as well.

In other business, Horning gave an update on the pier project which will be underway at Tawas City Shoreline Park.

She said she has received the preliminary design plan for the restoration project, and that representatives of Foth Infrastructure & Environment will be coming to Tawas City by mid-June to discuss the plan and make final revisions.

“They will also be meeting with EGLE [Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy] officials to discuss the project and permitting,” Horning stated.

She shared that the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), earlier that day, placed a sign at the foot of the pier advertising the project and the entities which are involved in the effort. Once a general contractor is selected, that company’s logo will also be added.

As reported, Tawas City has been awarded $3,589,949 in Community Development Block Grant funds for the pier enhancement work, which will expand and improve the current structure. 

According to a press release issued by MEDC, the project will rehabilitate the dilapidated existing pier adjacent to downtown Tawas City, allowing for safer fishing and viewing. The expansion will create 10 new docking sites for boaters and will also make any future pier development easier. The stabilization and extension of the pier will make the site a safe, public access point for the community and will transform the existing shoreline into an asset for residents and visitors. 

The undertaking has received local support of $452,611 from the Tawas City general fund, for an overall project total of $4,042,560.

In separate matters, Horning shared with the council the No Wake signs which were designed by Department of Public Works Director Gus Oliver, for placement along the Tawas River.

READY FOR PLACEMENT

Tawas City Department of Public Works Director Gus Oliver designed the No Wake signage which will be placed at seven areas along the Tawas River. The orange, black and white signs – created after property owners expressed concerns with motorized boat travel on the river – also list the section of law which applies, from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

It was during the council’s previous meeting when several property owners on the river expressed such concerns as motorized boats speeding through the area, saying it is of particular concern currently, with the high water levels.

Since then, Horning and Oliver reviewed locations for the signs along Tawas River and identified seven areas for them to be installed.

Horning said that both the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and Lake State Railway Co. gave verbal permission to place the signs on their bridges, but MDOT would like to see photos of the locations before the signs are erected.

It is noted at the top of the custom made signs that the No Wake applies to the entire river. Cited on the bottom of the sign will be the section of law which applies, as outlined by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

The total cost for the signage is less than $220 and, while Horning didn’t require council action to move forward, she said she wanted to present them with what Oliver had prepared.

The residents who spoke out at the previous meeting also showed interest in buying similar signs for their yards.

Horning said Tawas River property owner Denise Willis took the lead on this, so she will present the information to Willis, find out how she would like to proceed, determine how many signs the residents may want and so on.