River Country Journal
Celebrating and Nurturing Life in Southwest Michigan's River Country

All Stories

February 5, 2013

Ongoing depletion of sewer fund topic for Constantine Village Council meeting

More articles by »
Written by: Bruce Snook
Tags: ,
Constantine Village Hall - winter

Monday’s (February 4th) session of the Constantine Village Council brought an indication from Trustee Gary Mathers that he would have a recommendation how to handle a continuing problem with the depletion of the village sewer fund at the next council meeting.  Mathers is chairman of the Sewer Ad Hoc Committee. One option he mentioned was raising citizens’ water bills a second time.

In a memorandum to the council, Mathers stated in March of 2012 the council increased the combined water-sewer bill to village customers by 40 percent, at the recommendation of his committee in response to a 55 percent sewer rate increase to pump sewage to Three Rivers’ Clean Water Plant (CWP).  Following the CWP increase, the village was faced with an additional $30,000 monthly tab for its sewer bill, draining its sewer fund.

“The committee, with help from Fleis & Vandenbrink Engineering, has worked diligently to recently arrive at a rate more in line the village’s needs,” Mathers said.

“Even with the 40 percent increase to the citizens, we continue to lose money each month.”

Trustee Kathy Piper inquired if ongoing discussions between village attorney Scott Smith and CPW representatives would resolve the issue.

Village manager Mark Honeysett said the talks were only in the “fact finding stage” with one more meeting planned in March.

“We hope to get a better understanding how they arrive at their rates, which would certainly help, but any negotiating with Three Rivers has not begun yet,” Honeysett said.

He added that, while recent “cured-in-place” pipe lining by Pro Form had helped, it had not cut down the flow enough to make a significant difference.

“We’re still losing money every month from our sewer fund. The original 40 percent increase was intended only to staunch the flow of money,” he said.

The council voted unanimously to schedule a public hearing at 7:05 p.m. on Monday, February 18, during the next regularly scheduled council meeting for public comment.

In further council business, Honeysett, in a memorandum, stated only one bid had been received to replace the underdrains, install new media, and perform related services on the four water filters at the Constantine filter building. The bid from Peerless Midwest, Inc. of Mishawaka was for $50,000.

“The water fund will become pretty low, but not necessarily depleted,” he said. “It’s not in the budget, but it has to e done, to be in compliance with the DEQ.”

“Stainless steel drains will last indefinitely; that’s what the company told me,” he added.

The council voted unanimously to accept the bid.

Source:  Story contributed by Angie Birdsall.


  1. Pay no attention to the dirt mounds in the back yard

    Some suggestions on ways to conserve on water and sewer bills

    1) Bath with a friend
    2) Bath with someone else’s friend
    3) Don’t use a toilet–Change your religion to Amish, build an outhouse in the back yard, and have it Federally protected under Freedom of Religion. And besides, the neighorhood kids will just love your new horse.
    4) Make sure the Dollar store is stocked up on depends and find one in your size
    5) Reason number 8 to use ziplock bags rather than the generics—that blue and yellow makes green seal on a ziplock bag to show its sealed up good is REALLY important
    6) Just give the kids one teaspoon of Kool aid powder along with a cup and a half of of sugar and let them use the saliva in the their mouths to mix the ingredients.
    7) Cancel this year’s chili cook off
    8) I hear that oak rain barrels under downspouts are making a come back
    9) Astro turf never needs irrigation
    10) Change the name of the “fire department” to the “foundation savers”
    11) Take that countertop Sodastream soda maker back to the store….it’ll be cheaper to just buy the soda at the store
    12) Toss the goldfish, get a hamster
    13) Sell the coy pond on ebay and have free sushi as an option if you use the “Buy it now” option.
    14) Empty the swimming pool and buy the kids a skateboard
    15) Yep, that’s gotta be the biggest litter box I ever seen……And you do what with it again? oooh……..how big’s the scooper?

  2. Angie Birdsall

    Hey, that’s kind of clever, “Pay no…”… (haha) I would have loved to have gone to Mathers’ Sewer Ad Hoc committee meetings, to do a write up on what these people go through trying to avoid a second raise to our water bill. I sat in the front at the Council meeting and heard the magic words….”raise the water bill,” after listening to a former council member (sitting behind me) comment he “bet that’s what was going to happen.” Gary’s a great guy and does an excellent job on his summation of the ambulance situation, and I’m sure he’s a good Sewer Ad Hoc committee chairman. My husband may be right when he commented the real blame should be put on the people who set us up in this situation in the first place with Clean Water. I checked the TRC-News archives and could find nothing on the early days when the pipeline was put in. I was kind of interested in doing a write up on the history. My husband said he thought the heard it would “cost a million bucks” to upgrade the sewer system in town so they went to piping the sewage to Clean Water. I can’t remember. I do think the village would like input from its citizens on these raises. They’re all fair minded… just nice people caught in a bad situation. No one wants to raise the water bill if they can help it.

  3. Scott Chiddister

    Angie, your husband was right in his assertion that there was ample blame to go around from the previous folks on both sides of the pipeline when the concept was originated and how it was originated.

    And the facts are that the village voters thought they were voting for $1.3 million to renovate our existing plant in the mid 90’s. When you see the reasons why and who was dumping what in to the system and getting fined…you will understand why. What happened was that from what I call some sleazy tactics the ballot was “generically worded” and it said improvements to the sewer system. Thus the mayor (supported by a Council majority and a legal opinion) was able to use those funds to build a pipeline without going back to the vote of the people. Would you like to see the route of the pipeline that is dated BEFORE that vote of the people voting to approve fixing our own plant (meaning the wheels were seemingly already in motion while everyone was thinking they were voting on fixing our plant). And then TR needed a $7 million plant renovation (when you see the documentation on the history there that it will make your blood boil also ). Would you like to see a memo from the former TRCWP manager to a former village manager outlining the reasons for fixing that plant and how key pieces of equipment were operating well over 2x their expected life. In short we mothballed our own plant with equipment that was outdated,and spent a combined $3. million to build a pipe to hook to a plant with key equipment that was even older and we all paid an 82% rate hike to pay that $7 million renovation to the TR CWP. Is that something you really want to see?

    In parallel the pipeline as originally designed never worked right. We would brake pump impellers (at over $8,000 to fix each time), more and more frequently until both pumps were shut down and we had to truck our waste to TR for a week or so (at the cost of $110,000 if memory serves me correctly, then we had to spend $1.7 million to fix a pipeline that cost $1.3 million to build and we have been covering replacement costs for major stuff that breaks along the way.

    If you want all that history, I have it very clear, summarized and all the detail one could ever want. I couldn’t get a local paper to report on any of it (I’ll let you draw your own conclusions why when you read it). I literally had a Sturgis Journal reporter at the time in my living room with a concerned citizen that helped my compile the documents look at it and say…sorry, I just don’t have a story here. I mean it was unbelievable how no one wanted to touch it with a 20 ft pole.

    I have a pretty well put together summary of the history of this whole project from old Council memorandums to old TR, Sturgis and Village news clips. The whole archive with everything is well over 1000 pages. Alot of man hours from yours truly and a few other concerned citizens pouring through archives for well over a year.

    Only thing I cannot give you is any previous or current closed session stuff or any status of any discussions with TR, other than what has already been mentioned in that it is still alot of fact finding and it’s all been very positive, open, and thus far, productive.

    Just make sure you really want to know the history….even with your positive outlook on things, you will not like what you find and it won’t help you a bit in what we are working on in present day.

    In the meantime, the ad hoc committee is working very hard to make the best of an unpleasant situation to give the Council the best possible options to work with. Just remember that every voting member on that board also pays any rate increase it approves.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>