BY BRIAN McGILLIVARY
TRAVERSE CITY — Advocates for a special assessment on properties with septic tanks will make another, possibly final attempt to levy the tax this year.
The Grand Traverse County Board of Public Works will meet Tuesday at 9 a.m. in hopes of setting the first of two public hearings on a proposed annual assessment now estimated to be roughly $25.
County officials are trying to figure out a permanent way to fund the financially troubled septage plant, a facility that has bled red ink since it opened in mid-2005, and after which it became mired in problems tied to shoddy construction and poor planning.
Each public hearing requires a 10-day public notice period, limiting the BPW’s window to complete the process before the end of October, when officials need to place the assessment on winter tax bills.
One BPW member, Acme Township Supervisor Wayne Kladder, believes it may already be too late.
“To do this properly you just need more time,” Kladder said. “All of a sudden we are rushing to meet a deadline and in my mind we are not doing right by the people.”
Kladder said he hasn’t seen the final numbers the BPW will review Tuesday at the Garfield Township Hall.
The proposed special assessment, previously estimated at about $31, is now down around $25 or $26 said Mike Slater, director of the county Department of Public Works.
“It’s meant to be a break even that if you pump over a three-to-five year period you won’t pay more than you pay now,” Slater said.
The BPW would halve the cost it charges septic customers for treatment from 12 cents to 6 cents a gallon if the new tax goes into effect.
The BPW held a Sept. 21 meeting to try and accomplish the same goals it will address today, but staff and consultants couldn’t finalize the numbers in time. Board members said they would mail post cards and hold informational meetings around the county before the first public hearing.
Kladder advocated for hiring a public relations professional to oversee communication efforts, but instead found himself on an educational committee in a process he described as “a shambles.”
Rob Manigold, a BPW member and Peninsula Township supervisor, wants to move ahead with the assessment process, despite the time crunch.
Officials from several local townships already promised to overturn ordinances that require septic waste go to the county septage treatment plant, and they’ve also threatened legal action to stop the special assessments.
But Manigold said he believes a majority of BPW members will agree to at least start the special assessment process.
But he’s not so sure the votes are there to levy the assessment this year rather than in 2013.
“Whether we pull the trigger at the last public hearing, we’ll have to wait and see,” Manigold said. “We’ll listen to the comments and what people are saying and make a decision then.”