COMMERCIAL-NEWS | ROBERT TOMLINSON - Fabius Township Zoning Administrator Doug Kuhlman talks with the township board about the potential benefits of partnering with the South County Water and Sewer Authority during Wednesday’s Fabius Township board meeting. The township signed a letter of intent to research and explore the possibility of bringing water and sewer service via South County for commercial and industrial businesses along the U.S. 131 corridor.

Fabius signs letter of intent to research sewer, water for businesses on 131

Park, Lockport Twps. signs similar letter with South County Sewer & Water Authority

FABIUS TWP. — Fabius Township officials approved a letter of intent Wednesday with Scotts, Mich.-based South County Sewer & Water Authority to research potentially bringing sewer and water services to commercial and industrial businesses along the U.S. 131 corridor within the next few years.

While nothing is officially set in stone in terms of possible plans – the letter of intent is only for studying the feasibility of how the two entities could bring those services to commercial properties in the specific area – it could mean Fabius, as well as Park Township, could join South County’s authority and bring water and sewer services to the U.S. 131 corridor in about two and a half years.

“There’s a lot of development that could go on, but they need sewer and water services, so this might give us a mechanism to do that without giving up jurisdiction,” Fabius Township Supervisor Ken Linn said following the meeting. “It’d allow us to provide a needed public service to only those who need it if it works without forcing township residents to join a sewer and water program.”

Linn said the momentum toward signing the letter of intent started a couple of months ago, when South County reached out to Park Township about locating a sewage treatment plant in the township. Linn said Lockport Township also got involved with conversations and indicated South County may want to link up to Lockport’s water system. Park Township approved a similar letter of intent during their April meeting, with Lockport having done so as well.

The main point about Fabius potentially joining up, Linn said, was commercial and industrial development along the U.S. 131 corridor.

“We’re looking at 131, and when somebody wants to develop commercial property there, we can’t provide services. Because we can’t provide the services, we have to then negotiate with the city to kind of give away jurisdiction of the property,” Linn said.

Park Township Supervisor Ed English said in an interview Thursday part of the reason South County reached out was due to an upcoming major MDOT project rebuilding and re-paving the 13-mile stretch of U.S. 131 between Hoffman Road in Three Rivers and Shaver Road north of Schoolcraft, scheduled for 2023.

“They reached out to us because the state is re-doing 131, so the state wanted to know if you want any infrastructure done. That’s when South County reached out to us,” English said.

English said South County has a spot picked out along U.S. 131 for a potential treatment plant if the partnership is consummated, but declined to divulge where it would go. Zoning Administrator Doug Kuhlman said the potential plant would not be a lagoon-type system.

During Wednesday’s meeting, Linn said at the moment, South County has a few sewer projects going on, but don’t have any supply or sewage treatment plants, noting they have to pump through Portage to get to Kalamazoo.

Kuhlman said he, English and South County Authority Chair Frank LaPierre met with officials from Southwest Michigan First, as well as St. Joseph County Administrator Teresa Doehring and Finance Director Angie Steinman, who he said all gave them a “forward nod” for the project. He explained what the townships’ role would be in any potential plans if they join the Authority.

“The initial thought process is there would be an actual wastewater treatment facility in Park Township that would handle not only residential waste, but commercial and industrial waste,” Kuhlman said. “From all the projections being projected, if everything goes through, their ideal target date to putting a shovel in the ground is two and a half years, and that’s to cover a 5-mile radius from wherever this plant would be.”

Kuhlman specifically mentioned the J. Rettenmaier USA plant south of Schoolcraft and one other potential development could be some of the beneficiaries of such a plan if it goes through.

“The plant wants to triple in size, but they can’t because they don’t have municipal water or municipal sewer. So they’re interested,” Kuhlman said, adding that a campground along the corridor was recently sold to private investment, and wants to put in a $20-30 million indoor sports complex.

Kuhlman also noted there is the potential of expanding the industrial park off of Heimbach Road by 200 acres, which might also be a beneficiary if the partnership could go through.

Also brought up was the relationship Lockport Township would have as well, with Kuhlman noting that they could potentially be a secondary customer to supply water to Schoolcraft due to “water issues” they’re having at the moment.

“There’s a lot of cogs turning right now, there’s a lot of positive momentum, and everyone we’ve talked to from different agencies is talking positive about this,” Kuhlman said. “This could be huge for us.”

Kuhlman said the next step in the process is to get two more “key players” brought in to back the program, and then get the townships together for a “roundtable” discussion to see what a potential project could look like and what it might cost.

Overall, English said the project could be beneficial for the local area.

“This would bring all kind of businesses and factories down the 131 corridor. The economic development is endless,” English said.

In other business…

  • The township unanimously rejected terms from the City of Three Rivers for a Public Act 425 agreement for the proposed WellNow urgent care center currently slated for the southwest corner of U.S. 131 and Millard Road. The lone sticking point, according to Linn, the main sticking point in negotiations has been who gets jurisdiction of the property after the 50 years of the 425 agreement is up, with the city wanting to get jurisdiction. Pat Lennon, who represents the developers of the proposed site of the center, encouraged the two sides to get a deal done soon before WellNow potentially reconsiders locating in the area.
  • The board tabled action on a new zoning fee schedule, and made plans to talk to township attorney Roxanne Seeber about certain costs on the schedule.

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 22 or robert@threeriversnews.com.

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