Belding applies for state water management grant

By Cory Smith • Last Updated 11:50 am on Tuesday, November 26, 2013

From left, Belding City Council members Joe Feuerstein, Mike Scheid, Jerry Lallo, Mayor Ron Gunderson, City Manager Meg Mullendore and Mayor Pro Tem Tom Jones, listen to a presentation at the Nov. 19 city council meeting about the possibility of receiving a SAW grant to help pay for wastewater and storm water projects. — Daily News/Cory Smith

BELDING — It’s only a matter of time before Belding will have to address the lack of asset management plans in regard to the city’s wastewater and storm water systems.

With estimated expenses totaling nearly $1 million in costs to implement the two asset plans, the burden of paying for the two projects would be quite strenuous on the city’s budget.

So members of city council voted unanimously last Tuesday to authorize a Storm Water, Asset Management and Waste Water (SAW) grant agreement, which would pay for the two projects provided the city pay a 10 percent match of total costs.

The grant funds were recently made available by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).

In July, council members voted to allow Fleis & Vandenbrink Engineering Inc. of Grand Rapids to assist with the SAW grant program.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Fleis & Vandenbrink Vice President Steve Vandenbrink presented council members with the official scope of work for both plans, including the estimated costs of both projects.

“After several meetings with city staff a scope of work has been drafted which meets the requirements of both the city and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality,”  Vandenbrink said. “We’ve come up with a scope of work for the Wastewater Asset Management Plan and a Stormwater Asset Management Plan.”

Vandenbrink said an asset management plan is designed to provide strategy and planning for management of the infrastructure of a wastewater or storm water system and will soon be a requirement for systems such as those in Belding.

According to Vandenbrink, the estimated cost of the Wastewater Asset Management Plan is $658,950.

That management plan consists of six separate tasks which include plan preparation, the creation of an inventory of assets and mapping, and implementing flow metering. Vandenbrink said the estimated cost of the Storm Water Asset Management Plan is $320,550.

That management plan also consists of six separate tasks which include modeling and preliminary sizing, an updated field utility survey, the creation of an inventory of assets and mapping, and an assessment of the underground infrastructure.

The scope of work also budgets for Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software, hardware and training, at a cost of $82,500.

The total cost of the project is budgeted at $979,500, with the grant covering 90 percent of the costs at $881,550.

That leaves the city in a position to pay the 10 percent match of $97,950.

Council members had originally hoped that the city would qualify as a disadvantaged community, in which the 10 percent match would have been waived, but Vandenbrink said Belding did not meet the MDEQ’s required criteria.

The city must submit the grant application by Dec. 2. Vandenbrink said there is a chance the city may not immediately be selected to receive grant funds, which would put the projects on hold.

“We expect that the MDEQ is going to be flooded with these applications, probably more than they have money for,” he said. “That would mean they would hold a lottery to determine who gets a grant and who doesn’t, so there is no guarantee that the city will receive the grant during the first round.”

Vandenbrink said if the city was not selected in the first round of lottery selection, it would remain in the pool for future selections.

Mayor Ron Gunderson said he was concerned about the amount in costs that the city would have to pay.

“At one time we were talking about hopefully not having to come up with any match,” Gunderson said. “It’s kind of concerning that we have $97,950 that we have to come up with.”

Vandenbrink said that amount could be budgeted over a three-year period. City Manager Meg Mullendore added that the city could afford the costs.

“Our fund balance for the sewer is pretty healthy,” she said. “The city has enough funds for the 10 percent match.”

According to Vandenbrink, if Belding’s grant application were immediately approved, the projects would begin moving forward around April 1.

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