5 20 Three Oaks Sign

A mock-up of Welcome to Three Oaks signs slated to be repainted and placed along U.S. 12 in the future.

THREE OAKS — The Three Oaks Village Council received some good news on its sewage treatment lagoons during its May 12 regular meeting, and later approved a study to investigate the possibility of joining a regional sewage treatment district.

Village President Richard Smith said results of an investigation by Wightman and Associates to determine if the lagoons have impacted the groundwater beneath and around them indicates that the existing geologic conditions at the lagoons provide equal or better protection as compared to a lagoon liner constructed according to state specifications.

“This is great news for us,” he said.

In response to a question later in the meeting, Mary Nykamp of Wightman said it is their opinion that there is no need to re-line the lagoon because the underlying clay meets or exceeds the requirements.

“That does not mean there’s no work to be done at the lagoons of course, but it’s very good news as far as the lagoon liner goes,” he said.

As of May 12, Nykamp said Wightman was still awaiting the state’s response to the report.

Also on May 12 the Village Council approved having Wightman and Associates help navigate a draft Administrative Consent Order (ACO) issued on March 30 by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), and to investigate the village’s options regarding sewer treatment.

“Wightman understands that one of our current planning efforts is to analyze and understand the feasibility of connecting to the Galien River Sanitary District (GRSD),” Smith said. “This alternative treatment option could replace the village’s existing wastewater lagoons and likely eliminate several of the requirements that are going to be outlined in the draft ACO.”

He said the cost for both of these services from Wightman and Associates (ultimately approved 7-0 by the council) is estimated at $33,500.

Nykamp said the feasability study will look at factors such as if the GRSD has the capacity to handle Three Oaks’ wastewater.

Further investigation could involve whether the village wants to become a member or a customer of the GRSD, the potential connection to the system through New Buffalo Township’s system, and the development of cost estimates as compared to the expense of improving the lagoon system. The alternative of connecting to Buchanan’s system can also be explored, Nykamp said.

“In the end we want reliable wastewater service (in) the most economically feasible way possible,” she said.

Nykamp said the village’s likely liabilities regarding its lagoon system include developing and implementing an industrial pre-treatment program (which tends to have one dedicated staff member).

Village Manager Dan Faulkner said stimulus money and grants may be available for the village to use for whichever option it selects.

“If the village wants to grow, this is something we should look into,” he said.

Council member John Kramer said he feels the village has spent a lot on planning, consulting and engineering and needs to do some research itself in the future.

Also on May 12, the Village Council agreed to have Jessica Fette be the village’s new marijuana attorney.

Smith later said Fette will be reviewing information from a ballot initiative that passed in November 2020 (after a village marijuana ordinance was passed) and sharing details with council members at its June meeting. The issue of whether the possible expansion of the number of retail marijuana licenses that will be issued in the village from one two would require a public hearing also was discussed with answers expected at the next council meeting.

In other May 12 Three Oaks Village Council matters:

Council member Colleen Newquist said 185 people responded to a recent Communications Survey which yielded useful statistics and information on why people visit the village website. She said the top comments on how to improve the website included: “timely updates including meeting agendas and minutes;” better navigation, layout and graphics; and more robust information for residents and visitors. She said proposals from website companies are being considered.

Mock-ups of vintage nine-plus-wide foot wooden Three Oaks signs originally in Dewey Cannon Park that will be installed along U.S. 12 once they’ve been restored were shown to the council.

Local businesses were urged to apply for participation in the village’s Facade Improvement Program, which has a $5,000 annual budget.

The council agreed to have the Downtown Development Authority order and purchase 12 banners reading “Peace, Love & Pride” to be added to existing banners displayed in the village.

Faulkner reported that Treasurer Lois Jones has requested in writing to become a full-time employee. He said the request should be considered during the 2021-22 budget meeting.

Council members approved $3,300 for new lights in the Carver Park pavilion.

A public hearing on a proposed anti-discrimination ordinance was scheduled for the June meeting.

The June 9 Village Council meeting was scheduled to take place in the upstairs space at Froehlich’s.

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