Three Rivers to utilize $8.43 million in bonds, grant money for water repair projects

(Pictured from left to right) Commissioner Pat Dane, Mayor Tom Lowry, Commissioner Steven Haigh, and Commissioner Carolyn McNary during the Three Rivers City Commission meeting on Tuesday, December 20, 2022 at the Three Rivers Area Chamber of Commerce.

Financial relief is on the way for the Three Rivers Waste Water Treatment Plant in the form of a multimillion-dollar grant, which will be used to reduce the cost of upcoming water repair projects.

In August, commissioners approved construction contracts for pump station improvements before realizing the city was eligible for a $4,215,000 grant through the American Rescue Plan (ARP). This grant combined with Junior Lien bonds will provide the city with a total of $8,430,000 to be used for these improvements. The decision on whether to accept the ARP grant was met with unanimous approval during Tuesday’s city commission meeting.

Commissioner Carolyn McNary asked for clarification on whether the city would be required to pay back the grant. Cathy Lawson, Three Rivers’ director of finance, said the bond would need to be paid back but the ARP grant would require no repayment. When faced with a decision regarding the issuance of a $7,570,000 bond for the project, McNary commended the engineers working on Three Rivers’ water maintenance but expressed concern over rising water bill prices. 

“Our water bills have gone up tremendously over the last six years, and we’re asking for more money. I know we need to maintain conditions, but are citizens going to have to up our water costs again?” 

Lawson assured commissioners water bills would not increase due to the passage of the bond ordinance. “The sewer rates that we charge are sufficient to cover operation and maintenance, as well as the debt service that we are asking you to approve.”

Several improvement projects are planned for Three Rivers in the coming year, and an area of focus will be the pump station located on Constantine Street. This area has a line, which was installed over 40 years ago, that goes under the river. Mayor Tom Lowry said the line is “definitely showing 40 years of use, and we need to get that project done so that there is never any raw sewage going into the river.” Because this line runs under a river it will be significantly more expensive to repair, hence the hefty price tag.

A total of four issues regarding the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund and the American Rescue Plan were approved by city commissioners during Tuesday’s meeting. Additional information, including a live stream of the meeting and links to each issue being addressed that evening, can be found on the Three Rivers city website at www.threeriversmi.org.

In other business…

•Three Rivers resident Debra Abel spoke during the public comment portion of Tuesday’s meeting, expressing concern over the lack of options available to the city’s unhoused. “I’m just wondering if the commission has discussed possibilities of helping them, especially in the coming winter.” 

Abel also reminded commissioners and citizens in attendance that the Presbyterian Church has warming centers on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and the Episcopal Church offers soup pots. Abel concluded her comments by asking commissioners if there might be an empty building in Three Rivers that could be staffed by volunteers, and could regularly be kept warm for those in need. 

Beca Welty is a staff writer and columnist for Watershed Voice.

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