Baldwin water and sewage may switch to a regional utility authority

BALDWIN — A meeting took place at Pompeii's restaurant on Jan. 13, to discuss the possibility of forming a regional utility authority to take over control of the utilities currently run by Baldwin's water and sewage departments.

The Baldwin water and sewage system is in the 18th year of its estimated 20-year lifespan. Officials say rates will soon need to go up for residents using Baldwin water and sewage to keep the utilities functioning. Baldwin supervisor Len Todd has been the biggest proponent for switching to an RUA and said he thinks it is the only realistic solution to the current situation.

"We can't keep up with the costs of maintaining our system at our current rates," said Todd. "We currently don't have enough money to fully repair our equipment. Our water plant has been working at only 50 percent capacity since a sewage line broke last year and we don't have the money to fix it."

Currently, the village of Baldwin controls water and sewage service for its own residents, as well as the residents of Yates Township, Webber Township and a small number of residents in Pleasant Plains Township. By switching to an RUA, the newly formed body, lead by a board, would have the final say on decisions affecting the utilities and legally own all of the water and sewage equipment and property.

"The RUA would be an independent body organizing the sewage, water and — maybe eventually — the garbage service for residents who use Baldwin water," explained Todd. "If we switch to an RUA, the township and village governments would be removed from making decisions regarding these utilities apart from each getting to appoint a member of the RUA board."

Todd said by separating the business aspect of utilities from the political aspect, it will help ensure the best decisions are being made for residents who use Baldwin water.

Switching to an RUA would not prevent rates from going up in the near future for residents using Baldwin water and sewage, however, Todd said it would save the community much more money in the long run by consolidating the water and sewage departments from each municipality into one single department, increasing negotiating power and reducing redundancy. He also said this switch should not mean any municipal employees losing their job.

Should the village and townships agree an RUA would be a good idea, a study committee would then be formed. If the RUA is agreed upon, the group would become incorporated, meetings would begin and the board would start trying to collect grant money and bonds in order to buy the utilities from Baldwin.

"The village cannot continue down this path," said Todd.

There will be more discussion of the subject at an upcoming Village of Baldwin board meeting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 11.