Planning and affordability grant to fund water programs for Pontiac and Royal Oak Township

A nearly half a million-dollar planning and affordability grant was awarded by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) to the Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office. The grant, from the state’s “MI Clean Water Plan,” will allow the WRC to create a water affordability plan for residents in Pontiac and Royal Oak Township. The plan will be scalable so that all communities across the state can implement various programs to improve drinking water infrastructure and provide safe, affordable tap water to area residents.

“Water infrastructure requires continuous maintenance and upgrades, and it is essential to the health and well-being of our residents and our communities,” said Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner Jim Nash. “Many of the most urgent infrastructure upgrades are in communities whose residents are unable to afford them. Both Pontiac and Royal Oak Township would greatly benefit from an affordability plan.

“Raising water rates to pay for these upgrades is not a viable option in Pontiac or Royal Oak Township, where poverty rates hover near 30%,” Nash said. “Raising rates as a single option would result in residents being unable to pay their bills and could face water shutoffs.

“The EGLE grant will help us study the problem and develop a framework so we can continue to provide the level of service our customers expect,” Nash added. “My goal is to ensure access to quality drinking water for everyone.”

The grant will help the WRC research and develop a strategy for affordability plans in Pontiac and Royal Oak Township with the following benefits:
• Gain in?depth understanding of the causes of non?payment within their water systems.

• Address hurdles to affordability plans and various affordability programs presented by existing legal requirements.

• Educate community leaders and residents on the financial challenges of providing water and how this impacts individual users.

• Build relationships across multiple agencies to address affordability issues that impact various aspects of people’s lives.

• Engage stakeholders and public officials as partners in the development and implementation of the plan.

“This is an innovative and turnkey model, and my staff and I are honored to have been awarded this grant from EGLE,” Nash said. “It will allow us to create a holistic approach for a water affordability model that other entities can use. We are committed to having an organized effort with community stakeholders – we will be certain to listen to their needs and develop a plan that will show results and deliver what makes sense to residents.”

The MI Clean Water Plan is a historic $500 million investment to rebuild the state’s water infrastructure and help provide clean, affordable water to Michiganders through investments in communities. The more than $5 million in grant funding announced this month will help enhance water affordability plans and more.

The Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office is dedicated to protecting public health and safety, preserving natural resources and a healthy environment, maintaining reliable, high quality service, ensuring the value of investment and contributing to economic prosperity. We set goals that encourage efforts to meet or exceed local, state and federal water quality standards, environmental regulations and safety requirements within our control.

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