Chocolay Township Board nixes Kawbawgam area water system

Project is found to be economically unfeasible

Steve Lawry

HARVEY– The Chocolay Township Board Monday decided not to pursue development of a water distribution system supplied by the proposed Ojibwa Casino II water supply for Kawbawgam Road residents.

At the January meeting, the board authorized GEI Consultants Inc., based in Marquette, to develop preliminary designs, construction costs and estimated water rates for a water system to service up to 80 homes along Kawbawgam Road and the north shore of Lake Kawbawgam, which currently have wells.

“The goal was to gather enough information to poll the potential customers to determine their interest in connecting to the proposed system,” Township Manager Steve Lawry wrote in a Jan. 31 memo to the board.

After just a few days’ work, however, GEI stopped further work because its preliminary estimates showed the debt service portion of a monthly water bill would likely be about $100 based upon an estimated construction cost of $2.3 million and an amortization period of 40 years, he said.

About 4,000 feet of the system would have to be built within easements across private property, and no allowance was made for acquiring these easements presuming property owners would grant access for the chance to connect to a public water supply, Lawry said.

He also said water rates would need to include the cost of purchasing the treated water from the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community; state-imposed licensing, testing and reporting fees for operating a public drinking water system; and administration and operating costs the township would incur for activities like daily monitoring, monthly billing, seasonal clearing of fire hydrants and routine flushing.

These factors, according to Lawry, would put the total monthly bill per home between $150 and $200.

“Which is considerably more than what people pay for water,” Township Supervisor Richard Bohjanen said at Monday’s meeting.

Lawry also wrote in his memo that a system with costs spread over such a small customer base no longer is feasible considering the magnitude of the projected bills.

The board Monday voted unanimously to terminate the GEI contract and pay for work already completed. Previously, it authorized a contract for up to $5,000 with GEI, with about $750 already spent.

Lawry suggested at the meeting that the township mail letters to Kawbawgam Road residents to explain what it did to investigate the possibility of a public utility, what the projected costs would have been and why the idea was abandoned.

Lawry also addressed the possibility of expanding the water system.

“There just isn’t capacity to expand it to a larger customer base to make it a little more feasible,” Lawry said.