2018-07-05 / Views

Slow walk makes sense for Empire sewer study

Empire needs a municipal sewer like a high school graduate needs to enroll in college.

That’s to say perhaps such a venture would pan out, or perhaps it wouldn’t. Certainly the financial factor is huge - as is the concept of moving forward, of taking control of one’s future.

That’s why we like the route taken by leaders and residents of Empire Village, who are slowly digesting a Wastewater Treatment Study completed in April. A serious discussion among the Village Council and residents won’t occur until a public forum set for Tuesday, Sept. 18.

There’s a lot of information to consume in the study. We’ve found with big-ticket decisions, time is needed for thoughts to evolve and settle.

Priorities set just a month ago may not seem so important today. But there’s no turning back once soil is turned for a municipal sewer.

Public sewers have a history in Leelanau County of turning neighbor against neighbor. They can break a family budget or make a business. So naturally, tensions tend to run high.

Even if the Village Council moves toward construction of a municipal sewer, it likely couldn’t be built without help that’s outside the village’s sphere of influence. Estimated monthly expenses provided in the study were based on the village receiving a federal grant covering 45 percent of the cost.

Without the grant, the project becomes a fiscal burden.

There are things to like and dislike in the study.

Building and running a sewer that serves the entire village would be expensive when compared to similar projects. That’s inherent because of its small size. But Empire’s municipal sewer would be much cheaper than the one built about a decade ago by Northport Village and Leelanau Township.

The study offers three options, including one that would provide service only to the village commercial district. Business needs have driven municipal sewer exploration.

And we like that an underlying discussion point of the study was a private sector option. Jim Bagaloff, whose environmentally conscious development of Empire Bluffs has resulted in much respect in the community, has received a permit from the state to build a privately owned system that would serve most of the village commercial district.

So there is another option beyond public ownership.

To be sure, the wastewater study has become a hot potato. We credit community leaders who pushed the topic, for it’s become the basis of a much-needed discussion.

With stacks of information now on the table, Empire Village has moved closer to making an informed decision.

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