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Report Identifies Ways to Increase Use of Water Quality Bonds

Tuesday, June 7, 2005   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Nancy Brown
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Tuesday, June 7, 2005

CONTACT: Mike Nystrom. MITA Vice President of Government and Public Relations

(517) 347-8336

Resulting sewer upgrades would protect water resources, spur local economies 

LANSING — A report released today highlights ways to encourage local communities to utilize available funding that will help them upgrade sewer systems and improve water quality. The Great Lakes Water Quality Bonds, approved by voters in 2002, designated $1 billion to repair and replace municipal sewer systems and currently more than $998 million is still available. 

“Taking advantage of these resources is a win-win for Michigan,” said Mike Nystrom, vice president of government and public relations for the Michigan Infrastructure & Transportation Association, who commissioned the report. “It will help keep our water healthy and safe, while creating much-needed jobs for our economy. This report provides a roadmap for government agencies and others involved to improve the administration of the available funding.”

The study, conducted by Public Sector Consultants in Lansing, is the result of a task force created by MITA in January to determine how to assist communities in maximizing the use of the bonds. The group – comprised of organizations representing local governments, environmental interests and businesses – surveyed local officials to examine why they may be hesitant to apply for funding. A lack of information, limited budgets and complicated regulations were some of the stumbling blocks listed by those who participated in the project.

“Putting this type of funding to use is an important component of attracting businesses and creating jobs,” said Doug Roberts, director of environmental and regulatory affairs for the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. “Not only are jobs created by the projects themselves, but businesses are more likely to locate in communities with clean, healthy water.”

The State Revolving Fund program is a low interest loan-financing program that assists qualified municipalities with the construction of water pollution control facilities to be in compliance with state and federal environmental laws. The intended advantage of the SRF to municipalities is the ability to borrow funds below the market rate.

“Local communities strive to do what is in the best interest of their residents, but often face daunting financial, informational and regulatory challenges, said Joe Fivas, manager of transportation and environmental affairs for the Michigan Municipal League. “This report revealed some constructive solutions and identified roles for all involved to help streamline the process.”

The report broke down the recommendations into six main categories:

• Improving education and outreach efforts

• Enhancing the State Revolving Fund and expanding eligibility

• Streamlining the administration process

• Increasing planning coordination

• Providing regulatory incentives

• Strengthening local funding options

The task force plans to use the suggestions to develop initiatives that administrative agencies and local officials can implement. The group expects the legislature to be actively involved in facilitating improvements to the process.

“As families begin to enjoy Michigan’s lakes and rivers this summer, the last thing anyone wants is to encounter are ‘Beach Closed’ or ‘Caution’ signs,” said Sam Washington, executive director of Michigan’s United Conservation Clubs. “By pursuing the strategies outlined in this report, local communities will be able to make sure the signs visitors see read ‘Open for Business’.”