BERRIEN SPRINGS — The M-139 sewer extension project to the north side of the U.S. 31 freeway has gotten more expensive in recent months, but Oronoko Township Supervisor Mike Hildebrand reassured board members that it is still moving forward.
Hildebrand said Tuesday that the cost of the project has grown from the original estimate of $1 million to the current estimate of $1.5 million. “We’ve been wringing our hands as to how we would find more money, and we have found something that we believe will work,” he told board members.
He reported that the solution appears to be establishing a commercial rehabilitation district for the Honor Credit Union headquarters project after discussing the situation with Cornerstone Alliance and state Rep. Brad Paquette, R-Berrien Springs. Establishing the district will allow Honor to qualify for a 10-year tax break that will help them pay for the extra $500,000 in costs, he said.
The project was initially going to be paid for by a $500,000 contribution from Honor, $350,000 from the township and $150,000 from the Kerlikowske family. New legal agreements need to be worked up, but it now looks like Honor will put up $1 million and get some of that back with the commercial rehabilitation tax break.
“This ends up being a pretty good deal for the township,” Hildebrand said. “It’s good for the township to get sewer service to the other side of the (M-139/U.S. 31) interchange, it’s good for Honor and it’s good for the community to get more jobs.”
Dan Yerks of Wightman told board members that the sewer extension is being done primarily to benefit the Honor project on Edgewood Drive, but will also extend sewer lines to the other side of the M-139 highway around Red Bud Trail. “There will be big enough capacity for more development in that area,” he said.
Hildebrand said the next steps will be to hold public hearings to establish a commercial rehabilitation district, and later to give the tax break to Honor Credit Union. He said he doesn’t expect any more action until late winter, as construction has to start within six months once the district and tax break are approved.
He noted that while the commercial rehabilitation district concept might be new to Oronoko Township, it has been used in other area projects such as for the Watermark Brewery, the United Federal Credit Union headquarters and a Whirlpool child care center.
In another sewer extension project, the township board approved spending $82,042 to extend the sewer lines put down along M-139 in 2015 to United Federal Credit Union and other nearby businesses across from the fairgrounds.
Hildebrand said the township originally assumed that United Federal and other nearby businesses were serviced by the Andrews University sewer system, but they weren’t. Besides United Federal, the new sewer line extension will serve the AutoZone and Family Dollar stores in that area.
The cost is nearly $10,000 more than the initial estimate, in large part because the township will abide by joint village-township place-based code standards and put down a concrete sidewalk instead of an asphalt path, he said.