Traverse City News and Events

City To Vote On Hiring Firm To Monitor Dam, Adopting Healthier Drinking Culture Plan

By Beth Milligan | Oct. 18, 2021

With the FishPass project on hold due to ongoing litigation, Traverse City commissioners will vote tonight (Monday) on hiring an engineering firm for nearly $135,000 to monitor the Union Street Dam for safety risks. Commissioners will also vote on officially adopting the Healthier Drinking Culture Strategic Plan and approving contracts with outside firms to redesign the city’s website and to provide engineering plans for relocating a sanitary sewer main running through downtown Traverse City.

Union Street Dam Monitoring
Commissioners will vote to approve a contract for up to $134,600 with engineering consultant AECOM tonight to monitor the Union Street Dam. According to City Director of Public Services Frank Dituri, because of pending litigation in the Michigan Court of Appeals, the planned $19.3 million reconstruction of the dam as part of the FishPass project “is experiencing delays that are beyond the city’s control and at this time have no determinable length.” Dituri notes that a recent state inspection of the dam “downgraded the rating of the dam to fair-to-poor condition,” and that “to continue to maintain public safety it is necessary to secure engineering consultant services to monitor the condition of the dam.”

AECOM is the design team of record for the FishPass project and “has spent a great deal of time and effort gathering and interpreting data to design the entire project including the dam,” according to Dituri, who says the firm’s “expertise and familiarity with this project makes them the best choice for providing monitoring services.” If the contract is approved, one of AECOM’s first tasks will be conducting a topographic survey of the dam and installing 10-15 monuments on the dam to monitor and track movement and settlement. Because the dam’s spillway capacity has been determined to be insufficient under Michigan dam safety regulations, AECOM will explore options like lowering the dam stoplogs before storms to mitigate the insufficient spillway capacity. “Structural design changes will not be considered, but reduction in capacity due to clogging or closure of the fish ladder will be considered,” according to AECOM’s proposal.

Other tasks will include monitoring the health of mature trees along the river embankment, which pose risks from piping routes along the tree route systems and the potential of losing an embankment section if a tree falls. The state inspection report noted that “all trees should be removed from the embankments to the abutments.” AECOM recommends leaving trees in place until the status of FishPass is resolved, but will monitor tree health in the coming months and will recommend their timely removal if they show signs of deterioration or if FishPass is delayed indefinitely.

Other monitoring services planned by AECOM will include conducting a three-day dive inspection on both the downstream and upstream submerged portions of the structure, as well as evaluating concrete areas that have significant deterioration and recommending either immediate repairs “or repairs once the FishPass future is resolved, or if the delay becomes longer than 12 months.” AECOM will make similar recommendations on whether immediate repairs are needed to close gaps in the sheet pile of the dam. Overall, the firm said it would “conduct quarterly monitoring of the dam and provide instructions to city staff for more frequent monitoring” for the next year to try and stay on top of any immediate repairs or safety risks at the structure until there’s more clarity around the future of FishPass.

Healthier Drinking Culture Strategic Plan
City commissioners will vote tonight to formally adopt the Healthier Drinking Culture Strategic Plan, a document that outlines short and long-term action steps to be taken by the City of Traverse City, TC Downtown Development Authority, and Traverse City Police Department to improve the community culture surrounding alcohol consumption. The plan is the result of a months-long public input process that included a community survey that generated 1,130 responses and multiple focus groups and one-on-one interviews with liquor license holders, business owners, employees, and health professionals.

After reviewing a draft of the plan with commissioners last month, consulting firms Statecraft and Parallel Solutions made several edits to create the final recommended plan commissioners will vote on tonight. Those changes include adding more “positive language” noting that the community “has an opportunity to build on its strengths and opportunities and improve its drinking culture.” The final draft also notes that while many action steps are recommended that public and private sector partners could help implement or support, the document was specifically created for the city, DDA, and TCPD and that “actions are tailored to what these three public agencies are best positioned to implement with existing capacity and resources.”

In addition to previously identified actions like updating Traverse City’s ordinances and liquor license permit processes, working on a policy for drinking tour operators, and improving lighting and security cameras downtown, new steps in the final draft include incorporating the strategic plan into the city’s master plan update and consulting with Grand Traverse County on how “the Grand Traverse County Health Department and Prosecuting Attorney’s Office want to be involved with the Healthier Drinking Culture project going forward and what potential roles each entity could play.”

City Contracts
Commissioners will vote tonight on approving two additional contracts with outside firms – one to redesign the city’s website and one to provide engineering services for a sewer main relocation project. After putting out a request-for-proposals (RFP) to overhaul the city’s website, a committee reviewed and interviewed potential vendors from among 17 bids submitted. Staff are recommending hiring Traverse City-based firm Flight Path Creative at a cost of $28,500, plus $600 annually for storage/access for five years and up to $5,000 annually for development support. According to the RFP, the city is “seeking the development of a new website that is service-forward with a unique design for navigational ease that demonstrates our special community and brand identity for communication moving forward.”

Commissioners will also consider hiring firm Hubbell, Roth & Clark to provide engineering services for a project to relocate a 24-inch sanitary sewer line running along the river wall between Union and Cass streets in the 100 block of Front Street. Moving the pipe to the south in the alley away from the wall will reduce the risk of a catastrophic sewer failure that could occur if the retaining wall were to tip or move. According to Director of Municipal Utilities Art Krueger, “site conditions between the wall and sidewalk have deteriorated at an alarming rate with increased settlement and sidewalk instability issues.” One business in the 100 block had a sewer service failure, and the area is showing “increased settlement, which increases concern,” Krueger says.

With the city recently approved for state funding to address water infrastructure repairs including the retaining wall and sewer line, Krueger recommends the city “proceed quickly” on completing engineering plans for moving the pipe, with possible construction in spring 2022, and then stabilizing the river wall in the 200 block between Cass and Park streets since the sewer is going to remain along the wall in that area. That stabilization project could take place next fall. Krueger says the wall in the 100 block could also be stabilized, or the city could choose to remove it entirely as part of a potential green space redesign of the area under the Lower Boardman River Unified Plan.

Pictured: The Union Street Dam site prior to FishPass construction (left); rendering of site with FishPass built (right)

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