SHERIDAN — If all goes according to plan, this village may find itself the recipient of $196,000 in state grant funds, money that will be used to provide a complete survey and mapping of its water and sewer infrastructure.
At Tuesday evening’s Sheridan Village Council meeting, council members heard a presentation from Lynnelle Berkenpas, a representative of Grand Rapids based engineering firm Fleis & Vandenbrink. According to Berkenpas, state grant funds will soon be available to municipalities across the state for such mapping projects. Berkenpas was seeking, and received, council approval to apply for the grant on the village’s behalf.
Should the grant be awarded — sometime in April 2014 — funds would be available for the engineering firm to conduct an evaluation of the village’s water infrastructure.
“We would evaluate what’s functioning well and what’s not and come up with a plan of operation for the next 20 years,” Berkenpas said. “It will show what’s working, what’s breaking and what needs to be fixed.”
Engineers would help the village develop a total asset management plan, significantly streamlining any future repair, renovation or replacement projects. Also, without such a plan in place, obtaining future grants from the state will be all but impossible, according to Berkenpas.
“This will give you a good idea what you’re up against as far as long term maintenance,” Berkenpas said.
Berkenpas added that the cost of such a survey would ordinarily be out of reach for a village of Sheridan’s size; however, the state funding — 90 percent of the total cost of the project — makes the project plausible. The village would have to pony up 10 percent of the overall cost, however, that amount could be spread out over a three year period.
Village Superintendent Doug Lane noted that money spent on the project will be returned in the long run in the form of reduced repair expenses and access to future grants.
“A big tool in this is that down the road, if you go for grant money for anything, but mainly water and sewer, this will be a big (help) in receiving that grant,” Lane said. “Like a reliability study on a water system, this is what engineering firms use to go after grant money.”
Should the grant not be approved for any reason, there will be no charge on the part of the engineering firm to the village. The only caveat Berkenpas mentioned with regard to the grant is this: If the money is awarded, after the project is completed, if the engineering firm recommends an increase in water and sewer rates, the village is obliged to comply to at least 10 percent of the amount recommended. In other words, should the engineering firm determine the village needs to raise rates by $3 in order to maintain the long-term financial viability of the system, the council must approve at least a 30-cent increase.
Whether rates will change at all depends in large part on the outcome of the Fleis & Vandenbrink study, which is itself contingent on the village receiving the grant.
Council members also heard from Village President Susan Wyckoff-McFarland on progress being made on the village’s project to raise funding for a new clock for downtown’s main street. With a goal of $20,000, the village has already raised $16,970 in donations.
“We’re encouraging anyone who wants to donate to the clock,” Wyckoff-McFarland said. “People have donated $10, $20, up to $1,000. Obviously, we are accepting all donations.”
The village has sent out letters to area businesses, including many not located within village limits, asking for donations. Wyckoff-McFarland expects the fundraiser’s goal will be met. Any money remaining from the effort will go toward new Christmas decorations for the downtown area.
Finally, Lane noted that work on the downtown streetscape is nearly complete and the traffic cones that have become an all-too-familiar sight in Sheridan, will soon be gone.
The vicouncil meets next on Dec. 10.