St. Clair County floats multi-million infrastructure loan to Ira Township
Amid larger talks about using federal COVID funds, St. Clair County officials are weighing the possibility of a multi-million loan to a local community to service infrastructure needs — that kind that would also benefit any future development on 26 Mile Road.
The 11-mile corridor along the roadway, or Marine City Highway, has been a source of talks for county commissioners for well over a year in preparing to deploy part of the county’s millions in American Rescue Plan funds, particularly in bolstering water and sewer access, for example, to accommodate future economic investment in the area.
During a special session last week, Board Chairman Jeff Bohm said that officials have met with Ira Township, floating the use of COVID funds as a loan to help finance connecting underground infrastructure to support a new wastewater facility.
He, as well as Commissioners Dave Vandenbossche and Dave Rushing, who’ve also sat down with Ira, pointed to an existing need in the township to accommodate growing water and sewer capacity in addition to along the 26 Mile corridor.
“Part of it, really, (is) what the next steps would be if the county’s willing to commit a portion of the project – you know, up to X amount,” Bohm said in a follow-up interview Wednesday. “ Ira wouldn’t be able to do it on their own without county involvement. So, somewhere, we’ve got to let them know, ‘Yes, we’re willing to participate.’”
County commissioners didn’t make any formal decisions last week. On Wednesday, Bohm said he hoped to have a soft commitment in the next 30 days.
In an email, Ira Township Supervisor Jim Endres confirmed they’d been in discussions “on the possibility of extending water, sewer lines up to and along the 26 Mile corridor to facilitate the possible expansion of that corridor once the study is completed.”
The consulting firm Wade Trim was tapped to present recommendations to manage that kind of growth, and county officials recapped the study result during the session last week. Dave Struck, the county’s metropolitan planning director, said they hoped to have it up online for public viewing Wednesday or Thursday at www.stclaircounty.org/Offices/metro/Default.aspx.
Bohm told commissioners that Ira officials have “been mumbling 10 to 15 million” in needed support or a new treatment plant. However, officials didn’t get too specific otherwise on the details of that discussion.
Endres said they were still “in the investigative stages now” with no official timeline or potential project formally planned. He couldn’t be immediately reached in follow-up.
Bohm: Need to boost infrastructure not just an Ira Township issue
Bohm emphasized being able to set up a repayment mechanism with Ira if the idea moves forward, adding the county could agree to hold some ARP funds for “a certain amount of time” to give the township’s plans a chance to move forward.
“Ultimately, I want to have this as a revolving type of fund,” Bohm said. “When we get our money back, this problem exists all over our county. So, this just isn’t in Ira Township.”
Last week, Vandenbossche cited a similar need in small communities around the county — that treatment plants returning water and wastewater back to nature increasingly face updated environmental standards, while decades-old systems grapple with growing capacity needs.
“Ira’s looking at some pretty interesting ways of handling wastewater. It opened my eyes where we’ve got aging infrastructure on the whole in our cities,” he said. “Our wastewater’s are going to (need) a huge lift to keep them compliant.
“… I think down the road we might have to assist some of our communities in the wastewater treatment just to keep them solvent because of the issues they’re going to run into (moving) forward. It may be an income provider for the communities.”
Outside of Port Huron, Bohm agreed the county’s service providers were facing capacity issues, including St. Clair.
Rushing, whose commissioner district includes Ira, also pointed to the Algonac plant, which accommodates Algonac and Clay and Ira townships, adding they’ll need investment “if something in Ira does not happen.”
His bigger point, however, was needing more information before the board reaches a decision and weighing how the investment benefits the rest of his district and the county at large.
Contact Jackie Smith at (810) 989-6270 or jssmitH@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter @Jackie20Smith.
This article originally appeared on Port Huron Times Herald: St. Clair County floats multi-million infrastructure loan to Ira Township