Fraser residents brace for rate hikes

Nicquel Terry
The Detroit News

Fraser — Residents in 11 Macomb County communities could see their sewer rates rise for the next 25 years as early as July to fund repairs to a county-owned interceptor that collapsed on 15 Mile near Eberlein, officials said Tuesday.

It’s too early to estimate how much more residents will pay, they said; however, rates will be affected for the next 25 years.

Residents met with city leaders at City Hall on Tuesday night to discuss the latest information on the Christmas Eve sinkhole. Three homes were condemned among the 22 homeowners displaced in the sewer collapse. Those attending the meeting learned that 19 families have returned to their homes.

“I can’t tell you how much your rates are going to go up,” said Brian Baker, chief deputy commissioner for Macomb County Public Works. “It’s not going to be that much of an increase ... but, unfortunately, it’s going to be for a 25-year-period because that’s the life of the bond. It will affect all communities proportionately.”

Officials have said the line and the sinkhole are expected to cost at least $78 million but fixes could exceed $100 million. It could take up to a year to complete the repairs.

Loretta Thielen, one of about 50 residents at City Hall, said she already pays $100 a month for water.

“We don’t want to have to leave the community because of more and more fees and taxes,” Thielen said, who was among those curious about a timeline for sewer line repairs and reimbursement for damage to their homes or yards from the collapse.

County officials say they will need to build a bypass system to the interceptor, but that may take until March because of delays in getting materials.

“In the interim until that happens, there is a danger: we are at risk of having to discharge sewage into the Clinton River or into people’s basements,” said Candice Miller, Macomb County Public Works commissioner.

Officials last week urged residents in nearly a dozen Macomb communities to restrict water use to lessen the flow of sewage into the interceptor.

Miller said Tuesday night the water restriction alert remains in effect.

Meanwhile, emergency declarations are being extended at the county and state levels so the community can receive resources.

Some residents at Tuesday’s meeting expressed concern about declining property values because of the sinkhole.

“Residents would hope the city takes into consideration that values of our homes are going down and we shouldn’t be expected to pay the taxes that we have paid in the past,” said Linda Anstess, who lives on Eberlein Drive.

Anstess said she plans to file a claim with the county to be reimbursed for damage done to her yard when workers built a walkway that connects the neighborhood to the senior center parking lot.

Another homeowner at the meeting said he hoped to be reimbursed for basement flooding.

Officials say they are reviewing resident claims to determine what losses will be covered.

Mayor Joe Nichols said several local businesses are raising money to help families affected by the sinkhole.

“As you can see, there’s an outpouring of people that care for you,” Nichols said.

Miller said the county continues to work with the three families that lost their homes to the sinkhole.

“This was not a natural disaster; you normally don’t buy sinkhole insurance,” Miller said Tuesday night. “So we want to do what’s right.”