RC stormwater, wastewater system could get boost

ROGERS CITY – Rogers City will apply for a state grant of nearly $950,000 to create an asset management plan for stormwater and wastewater system.

City council members previously had asked engineering firm C2AE to apply to the Department of Environmental Quality’s Stormwater, Asset Management and Wastewater Program for a grant. C2AE Director of Municipal Infrastructure Larry Fox explained what the program is to the public attending Tuesday’s meeting.

The grants are funded through the voter-approved sale of water quality bonds, Fox said. At the urging of environmental groups, the DEQ created the program with $450 million that previously had not been appropriated. It’s so municipalities can take stock of their storm and wastewater systems and the repairs they need. Grants of up to $2 million are available, and local governments must provide some matching funds unless they’re considered disadvantaged by grant program standards.

When completed, the plan will give Rogers City employees a map of every pipe and manhole, flow capacities and other system information, Fox said. The project also includes running cameras through storm and sanitary sewers to identify problem areas.

“It allows the city really to assess what are the critical assets, what condition they are in and where do you need to spend your money first in order to fix things, and how do you properly plan through a rate structure to actually keep up and do a reasonable job of maintaining a system you are basically obligated to maintain for the citizens of Rogers City,” he said.

Grant applications will be accepted starting Dec. 2, Fox said, and he expects applications will exceed the $100 million the state has allocated for the year.

Council member Gary Nowak said having the asset management plan on hand would tell Department of Public Works employees what infrastructure is under a street before they make repairs. This would be a big help and an improvement over the current situation.

Rogers City is considered a disadvantaged city, at least for the wastewater portion of the grant, Fox said. This is not so for the stormwater portion, so the city will need to provide a 10 percent match. He estimated the cost to the city to be $29,078 over three years, although the city could be reimbursed $71,787 in the first year for project work done by city employees.

Grant-funded asset management plans must be complete within three years or local governments must repay the grant, Fox said. They also have to adjust their rates to ensure the systems are being adequately funded. Any funding gap identified in the management plan has to be addressed over five years, with the local government adopting a rate to close at least 10 percent of the gap in the first year.

Mayor Beach Hall said he didn’t believe city sewer customers would see another rate increase when the plan is complete.

“Thanks to the action taken by council this year, I think we’re on top of that piece of it,” he said.

While the grant request is for $943,750, the engineering plan calls for $453,928 in services from C2AE, Fox said. Some of the work will be handled by contractors, and other parts by city employees.

Council members approved a resolution giving Fox permission to apply for the grant, and approved C2AE’s engineering proposal. Council member Dana LaBar was absent.

After the meeting, Hall said he believes the grant would give the city an opportunity to create a management plan for its water infrastructure for years to come.

“As we go forward, we know that we have aging assets,” he said. “This will give us a pretty good indication of what we need to do to keep them current, repaired and timely, and get it taken care of with an intelligent, planned-out program.”

In other business:

* council struck down an ordinance banning begging in any public places after the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan informed the city a similar state ordinance had been declared unconstitutional in a United States Court of Appeals decision.

* council members also approved two ordinances amending city zoning ordinances to separate resale and pawn shops, allow resale shops and continue to forbid pawn shops in the city’s central business district, Hall said. This will allow the Shelter, Inc. thrift shop Seconds on Third to relocate to another building on Third Street within the central business district.

* the Millersburg Eagles will hold a salmon fishing tournament on Aug. 9-10, 2014, after council approved the club’s request. Member Randy Fulton said the club will use tournament revenues to fund scholarships and support local school athletics.

* council members approved a request from Optimist Club of Rogers City to hold its annual tree-lighting ceremony in Westminster Park on Nov. 27 at 6 p.m.

Jordan Travis can be reached via email at jtravis@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5688. Follow Jordan on Twitter @jt_alpenanews. Read his blog, A Snowball’s Chance, at www.thealpenanews.com.