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Monroe County officials to weigh upgrade to Bedford sewage plant

TEMPERANCE - A proposal to finance $5 million in planned energy efficiency improvements at the Bedford Township Wastewater Treatment Plant with federally subsidized bonds is pending before Monroe County officials.

Dan Stefanski, Monroe County drain commissioner, has submitted a request to use Recovery Zone bonds to replace aging equipment at the wastewater treatment plant with new energy-efficient pumps.

The request, made on behalf of Bedford Township, is about half of the $10 million that Mr. Stefanski's office tried to secure through a Michigan Department of Environmental Quality funding program.

The township was told last September that the request to participate in the revolving fund was rejected because the drain commission didn't provide a large-flow infiltration study, Mr. Stefanski said.

The Monroe County Board of Commissioners in December designated the entire county as a Recovery Zone, making area public entities eligible for

$13.2 million in economic development bonds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Also, $19.8 million in tax-exempt facilities bonds are available to businesses to finance new construction, renovation projects, and property acquisition.

The wastewater treatment plant improvements, which includes replacing aeration and blower pumps, is among projects from government entities submitted to the county for consideration.

Whiteford Township requested $200,000 for part of the costs of a new water and sewer system, but withdrew the proposal because of bonding costs, said Supervisor Bernice Heidelberg.

The city of Monroe wants $9.5 million in the federally subsidized bonds for the Winchester Street bridge replacement, water distribution system improvements, and window replacement and other improvements to City Hall.

The Bedford Township board last week gave its go-ahead to Mr. Stefanski to pursue the recovery bond financing.

The drain commissioner had appear at earlier board meetings to explain the proposal, but township officials delayed action because of questions, including whether township users of the system would incur higher fees.

"We didn't have a very clear picture of what the funding was going to look like, and we asked Mr. Stefanski to clarify that," said Supervisor Walt Wilburn." It doesn't look like there will be any increases. But we cannot predict the future."

The requests from Bedford Township and Monroe will be taken up March 9 by the Monroe County Economic Development Corp., which will determine whether the projects have met the qualifications for the bond financing.

Tracy Oberleiter, MCEDC chairman, said recommendations on the projects will be forwarded to the Monroe County Board of Commissioners, which will have the final decision.

Mr. Oberleiter said the low-interest bonds are an effective economic development tool.

"We knew that there would be a demand for the economic development bonds. We knew we would have to make a decision on who gets what," he said.

The MCEDC has set a deadline of April 1 for businesses to submit applications for the tax-exempt facilities bonds.

Mr. Stefanski said the new equipment planned for the sewage plant will take advantage of new pump technology, resulting in the operation using less electricity and reducing operating costs. He said that $5 million in other improvements are still needed and other funding avenues would be pursued.

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