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Published: Thursday, 5/29/2003

Smaller water district mulled

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

DELTA - Homeowners in an area of Swancreek Township under consideration for controversial public water lines received letters with lower proposed assessments late last week, but one township water board member is drawing a map for a much smaller water district.

The water board is expected to make a decision on bringing public water to the area in July.

The township water board sent certified letters to owners of 544 homes, notifying them that they would be billed $8,872 for the installation of public water lines if the board approves the proposed project. That figure does not include the cost of connecting water lines to homes or monthly bills for public water.

Earlier in the week, however, water board member Mark Fowler presented a proposed map to the board that would reduce the number of households getting access to public water to about 175.

Of those homeowners, 80 - or about 45 percent - said in a water board survey that they want public water. Throughout the whole district of 544 homes, owners said by a 2-1 margin that they did not want public water.

“Maybe there's a happy medium that can be reached and that's my objective,” Mr. Fowler said.

Homeowners have 28 days from the time they received their certified letter to respond and leaders of an active opposition group predicted two-thirds again will say they do not want public water.

The Concerned Citizens of Swancreek Township will encourage homeowners to file objections, group president Tom Sullivan said. But he said he fears the water board will go ahead with the whole proposed project no matter what homeowners say.

“They're going out and they're going to force the water onto everybody,” he said.

He said he thinks that public water lines should only be installed in areas where at least half the homeowners want them.

Water board president Tom Sallows said the board's decision will depend on the responses received from homeowners, but the majority would not necessarily rule.

He said he had not had a chance for an in-depth study of Mr. Fowler's proposal to form a smaller district, which would center around the intersections of County Road 2 and County Roads F, EF, and E. His own home would not be included in that district.

Mr. Sullivan, whose home would not be included on Mr. Fowler's map, said Concerned Citizens leaders favor Mr. Fowler's proposal, but think it is unlikely to be adopted because the cost per homeowner for a smaller projected would be deemed too high. Mr. Fowler, who was a member of Concerned Citizens, before he was appointed to the board in February, said this week he did not yet have cost estimates.

Concerned Citizens leaders have vowed to sue the board if it goes ahead with a project that the majority of homeowners do not want.

Even if the water lines would not be installed, how to pay for the planning and engineering done to date appears likely to erupt into a big issue as well.

Mr. Sullivan said he thinks the whole township should share in that cost because the planners studied a larger area than the currently proposed district.

“I personally will sue the water district if the whole township doesn't share in the planning costs,” he said.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars have already been spent which is part of the reason Mr. Fowler said he proposed the smaller district.

“My outlook was with the money already spent on planning and engineering, try to get some service out of it instead of canning the entire project,” he said.

Mr. Fowler's term on the board expires June 16. He said he has not decided whether he will ask the township trustees to reappoint him.

Trustees are expected to discuss the matter June 9, trustee Jim Meyer said.



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