BRIDGMAN — Bridgman residents likely face an upcoming $15-$20 sewer rate increase, Bridgman city council members said this week at its workshop meeting.  

“I don’t like to be the one to raise rates but we have to do it. Unfortunately, it has been neglected for too long and now we have to come up with a plan and resolve it. We have to address it now,” said Mayor Vince Rose.

The sewer fund is now in the negative by $4,000. 

Complicating the discussion are the unknown effects of this spring’s heavy rainfall on the amount the city will be billed by the Galien River Sanitary District, which transports and treats the city’s sewage at its plant in New Buffalo Township. The unnecessary leakage of rainwater from inflow and infiltration into the sewer system is one of the problems contributing to city’s sewer expenses. This leakage is largely due to the age of the system and the illegal connection of residential sump pumps to the sewer system.

Aside from age and leakage, the city also is faced with correcting a shortfall in sewer revenues to cover the operating costs and debt service. Historically, this shortfall has been covered through loans from the city’s general fund and its water fund.

Despite a 57 percent increase in sewer rates three years ago, from $4.53 to $7.12 per 1,000 gallons, sewer revenues are not enough to repay the loans to the other city funds and also keep up with rising operating costs and expenses. Nor is the automatic 2.4 percent cost of living yearly increase to sewer bills enough to cover the shortfall.

Bridgman falls right in the middle of municipal sewer rates charged by other municipalities, officials said. 

“We just had a huge increase after 27 years of no increases. We missed out on compounding factors over the years. It’s simple arithmetic,” said council member Rick Fuller. 

Also on Monday Treasurer Debbie Lambrix went over the budget highlights, noting that property values went up slightly, helping to keep millage rates down.