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Schoolcraft looks at village sewer system to replace old septic systems

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Schoolcraft looks at village sewer system to replace old septic systems. (WWMT/Jake Berent)

The Village of Schoolcraft is looking at installing a sanitary sewer system to serve the village and surrounding areas.

The Village of Schoolcraft, Schoolcraft Township, and communities around Barton Lake and Sugarloaf Lake are currently served by individual septic systems. The Village is consulting with Wightman & Associates of Kalamazoo on the project, and estimate the entire cost of the project to be between $15 and 30 million.

"Economic development will is one of the reasons, lack of growth is certainly a problem. Business development. Environmental issues. Water quality issues. That's why we're looking into getting a sanitary sewer system," Schoolcraft Village Manager Cheri Lutz said.

Lutz said the village wants a sewer systems for economic reasons, but also for health and safety reasons.

The Village held a public meeting back in June and has another one coming up in July to discuss the system with the thousands of residents who will be affected. The Kalamazoo County Health Department presented, along with Wightman, at the June meeting.

The health department said a properly maintained sewage system will protect property value, drinking water quality and community health. The presentations are available at the village website.

Wightman said it would cost anywhere from $8,000-$12,000 for a single family home to hook up to the new sewer line and would cost about $50 per month for sewer service.

Some residents believe it's much cleaner, less of a hassle, and cheaper to have a sewer system. Margaret Beck has lived in Schoolcraft for 34 years, and had her septic tank replaced when it caved in a decade ago.

"There was a big hole. So they had to move it [to the other end of our yard]," said Beck. "I had money saved up for a new car. I had to finance the car because the money we had saved, it was close to $7,000, it went for the septic tank. And then we have to get it pumped every one to three years, and every time you do it’s $300 to $400."

Lutz also believes a sewer system will attract businesses to come to Schoolcraft, which has at least five empty storefronts along a one block stretch of Grand St.

"We're pretty much off the radar for any big manufacturing companies to come in because we don't have that important infrastructure to support manufacturing," Lutz said. "A lot of them are big water users, and septic systems are costly to put in for businesses. And they have to pump them frequently. So it's not very cost-effective for them."

When Beck first moved to Schoolcraft in the 1980's, she remembers a vibrant business district with many businesses.

"Every business that requires a sewer they think twice before coming, because they are relying on septic, it's very expensive for the businesses to have to deal with it," Beck said. "Even for homeowners, privately, it's cleaner. And it affords us more usable yard space."

Not everyone in the village is on board with the plan.

"The homeowners are kind of split," Lutz said. "Some are very much in favor of it, some of them not at all."

Ted Lupina said his septic system is reliable, and doesn't cost a fortune. He's very vocal about his opposition to a sewage system in Schoolcraft.

"I have a perfectly good septic system that works fine. I don’t have any issues, I can have it pumped once a year and pay less money than what they’re talking about," Lupina said. "The new sewer system, most people can't afford it."

He believes the village trying to attract more business with a new sewer system will place a heavy financial burden on its current taxpaying residents.

"This is not about the environment or the water safety, or anything like that. This is a revenue stream for these people, this is a way of making more money," Lupina said.

The next scheduled meeting to discuss the sewer system will be at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, July 22 at the Schoolcraft Community School's auditorium.