Howard City nears the end of SAW grant work

By Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 5:06 pm on Thursday, April 20, 2017

From left to right, Howard City Village Manager-President Randy Heckman and council members Janice Williams, Bruce McTavish, in back, and Jason Hacko listen to an update about the village’s stormwater, asset management and wastewater grant during Monday’s meeting. — Daily News/Elisabeth Waldon

HOWARD CITY — This village is nearing the completion of a three-year stormwater, asset management and wastewater (SAW) grant process.

The Howard City Village Council on Monday evening heard a progress update from David Bluhm and Sam Bender of Fleis & VandenBrink Engineering in Grand Rapids.

The village received the $423,963 grant from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) starting in 2015 and set to conclude later this year. The village is responsible for funding an additional $47,000 of the cost.

The goal of the SAW grant is to stimulate Michigan municipalities to update sanitary sewer systems and stormwater systems, an otherwise expensive assessment. Using the grant, Howard City was able to create geographic information systems (GIS) mapping for the village’s entire water system. Once the water system map was completed, the village’s water system was assessed. A capital improvement plan is also being developed based on the results of the mapping and assessment.

A wastewater rate study report has been prepared to submit to the DEQ by the required May 1 due date. An inventory of stormwater assets is still being done, with a draft asset management plan due for completion by July. Certification of the asset management plan is due to the DEQ by Oct. 31.

“We’re obviously nearing the end here,” Bluhm told council members. “Your collections system is in really good shape. The majority of your pipes is in pretty good condition.”

Bender reported on the condition of the village’s wastewater plant and pump stations. The wastewater plant was built in 1967 with a new lagoon configuration and rapid infiltration basis added in 1995 and aeration system improvements made in 2010.

“A lot of the equipment at the plant is in good condition,” Bender said, but he noted village equipment will invariably need to be fixed and replaced in coming years.

The village has an estimated $1.2 million worth of short-term and long-term projects that need to be addressed in the next decade or less. Village officials are hoping Howard City will be awarded an infrastructure capacity enhancement (ICE) grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. to help defray these costs. The village narrowly missed being awarded the grant last year.

Howard City currently charges customers $17.60 per month for water and sewer services, or anywhere from $35 to $193 per month for commercial customers. Mike Engels from the Michigan Rural Water Association, explained to council members how these rates could increase based on the improvements the village needs to make and whether the village is awarded an ICE grant.

Bluhm said he expects ICE grant recipients to be announced within the next 30 to 60 days.

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