Village of Bear Lake: water system news

Following the long and convoluted history of how we got to now in the reconstruction of segments of the Village of Bear Lake water system can be both frustrating and time consuming.

Finding and publishing documents and decisions has required a dedicated group of residents filing FOIA requests of both the Village and USDA.

That aged supply lines needed to be replaced is not in dispute. But the initial option suggested by Fleis VandenBrink to ‘pay as you go’, was replaced by a full blown multi million option promoted as another plank in the redevelopment platform. In the quest to install a commercial level system, the caution from Fleis VandenBrink that the newly replaced water tank, which is still being paid for under an MEDC loan, did not meet the size required for a commercial system has remained unacknowledged.

For those interested in how the many questions asked at the first public meeting have been, or not been, answered – here is a recording of that meeting as supplied by a local resident.(click link to open a separate page)

And for a video recording and questions raised see this page.

Several questions from that 2016 meeting seem on point now – after property has been purchased from the school, cleared, and has not produced 2 wells with sufficient capacity.

At that time an independent consulting engineer recommended checking the current well pumps for possible recalibration and performing rehab processes to check for possible increased flow in the current system. Or drilling a new well at the same location as this is a known aquifer source.

The previous Wellhead Protection Plan recommended drilling to a new aquifer source – possibly as deep as 6-700ft – as drilling an additional well to the same current aquifer does little to protect future supply. Indeed the Bid documents include the instruction to bid on wells at the same depth as the current ones.

Which makes the lack of security at the test well locations until a local resident lodged a complaint troubling.

At the 2016 meeting MDEQ stated the current wells had isolation/set back issues. However the new test well site sits even closer to a roadway.

In February of this year, in a response from the Village Clerk to a request for information about the siting of the proposed DPW building within feet of the new main well supply line construction – it was stated: “Well testing has been accepted by the DEQ.

The resident asked to see the well drilling logs and hydraulic study – none have been received. (In January 2017, the Minutes record: ”

  • Ken from Fleis & Vanderbrink reported: test wells have been drilled, look favorable. Project is on schedule, bids should go out in March.”

In October 2017: ”

  • President Bair gave an update on the Water Well project, it is near the end, need to finish the paperwork before the project actually begins. Test wells could happen by the end of 2017 depending on weather.”

The contentious issue of water meter installation continues. No systematic effort has been made to ask residents for a mutually agreeable appointment.

There is still no defined published rate structure. A Water Board has been established to consider requests to reduce rates for those who ask.

Current residential users pay $45 per month. A review of projected costs indicates an inevitable rise by $20-$28 per month – with the possibility of an additional future meter fee.

In September 2018 the Village adopted a revised Water Ordinance without providing a draft for the public to review as requested by FOIA.

User charges for water service furnished by the waterworks system shall be based on the quantity of water used as measured by meters installed on the property and shall be billed pursuant to Section 7 below per 1,000 gallons of water consumed above the amount allotted to each user. The minimum water bill per month quartershall be no less than the amount of the monthly quarterly ready to serve charge as established by resolution of the Village Council.

Section 4 – Other Fees and Charges: The Village Council shall by separate resolution establish the fees to be charged for water meters and other services performed under this Ordinance.

Section 6 – Review of Rates: The adequacy of the user charges shall be reviewed annually by certified public accountants for the Village in their bi- annual audit report. The user charges shall be revised periodically to reflect a change in debt service or a change in operation, maintenance and replacement costs in accordance with applicable federal regulations. The Water Supervisor is to notify the Village Council in writing of any needed changed in fee structure. {a request for clarification of a contract or Letter of Understanding with Baird, Cotter & Bishop PC has not received a response}

Section 8 – Meter Testing: A user may require a water meter to be tested, if the meter is found to be accurate a charge equal to all costs of labor during testing shall be made. If the meter is found to be defective, it shall be repaired or replaced at no charge to the property owner. {NOTE: no mention is made of reimbursement to the property owner of excessive fees paid due to a faulty meter}”

This is the current information available on bearlakemichigan.org