PORTAGE —This Kalamazoo County community of 40,000 is actively looking at a proposal from its city manager to privatize the water and sewer department. The move could save Portage nearly $5 million over five years.

Should the city accept the lowest bid for contracting out the department’s functions, Earth Tech Operations would provide the privatized services. City Manager Michael Stampfler said that instead of increasing water and sewer rates as projected under city management, residents would actually see a reduction of about $49 a year for the typical customer. Many, but not all, of the current city workers who are employed in the department would be hired by the private company.

Earth Tech Operations manages many water and wastewater facilities for Michigan municipalities, with one of its most successful and most often cited plants being in the northeast lower Michigan community of Alpena.