Traverse City News and Events

City Commissioners To Vote On Bonding $8M In Water, Sewer Projects

By Beth Milligan | Aug. 15, 2022

Traverse City commissioners will vote tonight (Monday) on issuing up to $4.5 million in water bonds and up to $3.5 million in sewer bonds to cover infrastructure projects in the next year – the first step in a five-year plan to tackle up to $46 million in improvements to the city’s drinking and wastewater systems.

Commissioners adopted letters of intent in March indicating that the city plans to borrow up to $30 million in sanitary sewer system bond funds and up to $16 million in drinking water system bonds to make improvements to the city's infrastructure. A majority of those funds could be reimbursed through low-interest loans and or grants from the state. The city doesn't have to spend those full amounts – which include all engineering, construction, and contingency costs – if project budgets come in lower than those estimates, but the bonding resolutions provide flexibility for spending up to those limits. The letter of intent gives a required notice to allow the public to submit referendum petitions to put the bonds on the ballot. With no petitions received, commissioners can now actually begin to issue bonds.

According to City Manager Marty Colburn, the city is at “an exciting time to move forward with some substantial projects that will enhance our water and sewer system infrastructure.” The up to $8 million in bonds that commissioners could approve tonight will cover two major projects in Year 1 of the plan. The first, a sewer project, calls for moving a sewer line in the 100 block alley of Front Street, upgrading it from a 24-inch to 30-inch pipe and relocating it further south away from the river. The sewer line currently sits directly on top of a vulnerable stretch of river wall foundation. That relocation project could allow for a redesign of the riverfront in the 100 block, with the Traverse City Downtown Development Authority (DDA) currently going through a public input process to create a new design concept.

The sewer line is also at risk in the 200 block, but that alley doesn’t offer enough room to move the pipe south, according to City Director of Municipal Utilities Art Krueger. Instead, the city will install extensive sheet piling to stabilize the retaining wall. Along with the bonding vote, commissioners will vote tonight on awarding contracts for the pipe relocation and stabilization project in the 100 and 200 blocks to Team Elmer’s. The company bid $2.15 million on the two projects, coming in significantly below an engineering estimate of $2.85 million.

That cost savings is good news for the city, which is applying for state reimbursement for the entirety of the project. Patrick McGow, the city’s bond counsel, noted in a letter to commissioners that bonds can be reduced “prior to closing based on the actual construction bids and final (state)-approved costs,” and that state loans or grants can later be applied and reduce the city’s bond obligation. According to Krueger, work is anticipated to start in the 200 block this fall and the 100 block next spring. Both blocks are anticipated to be completed by summer 2023.

The $4.5 million in water bonds on the commission agenda tonight will go toward a service line replacement project. Like other communities across Michigan, Traverse City is under a state mandate requiring utilities to remove all lead service lines that connect homes to water mains, as well as galvanized steel lines that are or were connected to lead lines. The city has identified hundreds of galvanized steel lines that will need to be replaced. While the city’s drinking water is safe and regularly tests well below federal lead level standards, galvanized lines are considered a long-term risk as they can erode over time and leach contaminants.

Commissioners will vote tonight on approving a contract with Team Elmer’s for the service line replacement project, which will cover replacing 300 private lines. Team Elmer’s came in just under another bidder, Walton Contracting, for the contract at $4.53 million compared to $4.56 million. The service line replacement will take place over three years in the following parts of the city, according to project documents: South Division to Locust and West Ninth to West Fifteenth (2023), Railroad Avenue to Garfield Avenue and Peninsula Avenue to Boyd Avenue (2024), and Madison Street to Gillis Street and Hill Street to Seventh Street (2025).

Millions of dollars in more infrastructure projects are planned in Traverse City in the coming years through 2026. The list includes:

Sewer Projects
2023: Madison/Jefferson Sanitary Sewer Rehabilitation ($1.7 million)
2024: Sanitary Sewer Rehabilitation ($430,000), Sanitary Sewer Evaluation Study ($200,000), Primary Treatment Improvements ($14.54 million), US-31 Reconstruction/Utility Replacement ($500,000)
2025: Sanitary Sewer Rehabilitation ($430,000), UV Disinfection Upgrades ($2.69 million)
2026: Sanitary Sewer Rehabilitation ($430,000), East Front Street Sewer Improvements ($860,000), Wet Weather Equalization/Diversion – If Needed ($4.2 million)
Total: $28.7 million (including 2022)

Water Projects
2023: Water Treatment Plant Pump Rehabilitation ($775,000), WTP Electrical Improvements ($2.38 million), WTP High Service Pump Station Valve Replacement ($538,000), WTP Sodium Hypochlorite Storage Tank & Building Upgrades ($450,000), WTP Backwash and Surface Wash Pumps ($228,000), Wayne Hill Booster Station ($691,000), North Madison & Jefferson Watermain ($1.6 million)
2024: WTP Freight Elevator ($300,000), US-31 MDOT Project, 16-Inch from US-31/Bay and 12-Inch from US-31/Railroad to US-31 Garfield ($2.6 million)
2025: WTP Generator Replacement ($600,000), 24-Inch from Lake/Cass to Lake/Union ($488,000), 24-Inch from Lake/Union to Lake/Wadsworth ($807,000)
2026: 16-Inch on East Front from Franklin to Park ($1.079 million), 24-Inch from Webster/Rose to Eighth/Railroad ($1.65 million), 24-Inch from Garfield/Washington to Webster/Rose ($1.46 million)
Total: $20.2 million (including 2022)

Traverse City commissioners meet tonight at 7pm at the Governmental Center on Boardman Avenue.

Photo Credit: Jacobs (operating firm for Traverse City's wastewater treatment plant)

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