A long-talked-about proposal for Grosse Pointe Park to build its own water plant has risen again.
The idea to draw water from Lake St. Clair then treat it and sell it surfaced several years ago as rates charged by the City of Detroit, provider of water to some of the Pointes and most Detroit suburbs, continued to increase.
With rates and fees still increasing annually and by larger amounts, City Manager Dale Krajniak and some city council members say it may be time to proceed with building Grosse Pointe Park's own water facility. Studies and consultant reports on the project have been done, making the decision to go forward a quick one, they say.
The issue of where the water plant proposal stands was raised by a Park resident during Monday's Grosse Pointe Park City Council meeting.
Krajniak said the latest increase from Detroit Water and Sewerage to the city was about $200,000. In four years, he said, Grosse Pointe Park's annual water costs have gone from about $650,000 to about $1.2 million.
"The question is at what point does it make the most financial sense for us to do it," Krajniak told a dozen or so people attending the council meeting. "We are just about at the point where we could look at a plant."
Mayor Palmer Heenan, once an opponent of the city's paying to study water plant construction, seemed to come around at Monday's meeting.
"The way costs from the City of Detroit are advancing we might have to do it to protect our taxpayers' pocketbooks," Heenan said.
Councilman Robert Denner said now is the time to make a decision.
"The up-front work is complete enough to do what needs to be done. We're at a point where final decisions could be made. We have enough information. Before it was financially feasible to build one. We're in the neighborhood now, depending on how you look at assumptions, where it's a judgment call. It could be fiscally responsible to build one now," Denner said. He complimented city administrators for putting the council in a position to proceed responsibly and knowledgeably.
"We're getting to the point where it's almost irresponsible for us not to look at it," Denner said.
However, residents need to have an understanding of why it would make sense if that is indeed the council's conclusion, he said.
An audience member questioned whether the big price tag on a water plant would outweigh increases to individual water bills. He also asked what the increases amount to on average water bills, but did not get an answer.
Councilman Daniel Clark added that "we'd be protecting ourselves from future increases."
Denner said since the proposal was first introduced water plants have become more cost-effective, less labor intensive and require less property, making this a good time to build.
In addition, Grosse Pointe Park is "in a unique position because of being on the lake," he said. That makes getting to the water that will go to the plant less difficult and costly.
If a water plant were to be built, Krajniak said, the intake line would be located at the marina at Windmill Point. Locations for the plant need to be found. Even if the council were ready to make a definite decision on whether to build, construction likely would not start until the fall of 2012. That's because it's nearly too late to start construction this fall, he said, and the plant can't be built in spring or summer because of the disruption it would cause.
Another audience member asked if the city might go into the business of selling water to municipalities. Water plants are the talk of the town in many cities wishing to be in control of their costs.
"I personally think we should file for a trademark for our water," Denner said to laughter.
In all seriousness, he followed up, "Other than kicking it around we don't have any plans."