By Ralph Echtinaw
St. Louis City Council members voted 5-0 Tuesday to trade in the DPW’s three-year-old wheel loader for a factory-fresh wheel loader.
What’s a wheel loader, you ask? It’s 29,000 pounds of construction machinery with four large wheels and a front end to which a number of attachments can be connected. DPW personnel use it for moving and loading snow, concrete, asphalt, dirt, brush, wood chips, etc.
“It is tall enough to load over the sides of the big dump trucks and to pile the salt in the shed,” said DPW Superintendent Mark Abbott in an email when the current wheel loader was acquired in 2017. “It is used by Water and Electric Departments also for transformers and water leaks. The list goes on and on. It really is the number one workhorse in our fleet.”
The net cost to the city is $61,955, up almost $5,000 from what the city paid three years ago for the same swap.
The lease agreement limits the city’s use of the wheel lower to three years or 2,000 hours. Councilman Roger Collison asked Abbott Tuesday how many hours the current wheel loader has on it, and the answer was 1,600.
The current wheel loader will be returned to CAT and re-sold. “I bet that they’re making as much or more on selling the used one as they do selling the new one to us,” Abbott said.
The city’s backhoe is on a similar plan, but for five years, not three.
The city’s ongoing project to repair the sanitary sewer network continues, as council approved spending $184,000 for “Phase I engineering” with Orchard, Hiltz and McCliment, a company with 11 locations in Michigan.
The problem the city seeks to solve is ground water getting into the sanitary sewer. All that extra water goes into the city’s wastewater treatment plant behind the DPW garage on Union at Prospect, making the machinery there work harder to process water that ought to be in the storm sewer.
As the Sentinel reported in April 2018, 4.43 miles of the city’s 22 miles of sanitary sewer pipe is in need of attention.
The dilapidated pipe is located all over the city. If you live within the city limits you are probably within one block of a stretch of sewer pipe in need of repair or replacement.
Water well development
Councilmen approved spending $174,600 with the Fishbeck engineering firm of Grand Rapids for professional services relating to Well No. 12 well house and water main design. The well is located near the corner of Luce Road and Van Buren in Arcada Township.
This will be the seventh Gratiot Area Water Authority production well and the last one for the time being. The well will be owned by St. Louis only until construction is complete and then transferred to GAWA.
The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to reimburse the city for the cost of this well.
“The proposed project will result in the commissioning of a new 16-inch production well on the former Fredrickson site,” said Fishbeck vice president John Willemin in a letter to City Manger Kurt Giles. “The raw water transmission main will include approximately 3,000 lineal feet of 8- to 12-inch raw water main from the new well house to the existing 16-inch raw water main near the intersection of Luce Road and Riverview Drive. the project will also include crossing the Pine River with the raw water main. The river crossing will be 500-700 feet in length and be designed to be installed by horizontal directional drilling.”
Wastewater treatment plant
Councilmen awarded a $182,500 contract to John E. Green of Highland Park to install equipment at the wastewater treatment plant.
The city had already spent $126,450 on a new screen and washer/compactor from Westech. That equipment is expected to be ready to install in mid January.
There was one other bidder on the project, but it came in much higher than the John E. Green bid.
“The existing screening unit was installed in the 1998 project at the wastewater treatment plant and is the first line of defense to remove materials from the treatment process,” said Jean Inman of Spicer Group in a letter to Giles. “The existing screening unit was partially rebuilt a little over a year ago, but continues to see constant plugging of the screenings basket that the operators have to scrape. There is also a significant amount of pass through materials that should be captured and removed, but are not with the current screen.
“The existing screen uses some older technology and the brushes are forcing some materials through the screen rather than being removed from the flow stream. This has resulted in excess accumulation of materials in all of the downstream tanks and structures that not only cause plugging of pumps, obstruction of instrumentation, but then these materials have to be removed manually.”
Clapp Park vandalism
Police Chief Richard J. Ramereiz Jr. told council he is still looking into adding additional video surveillance cameras to Clapp Park, as he was asked to do at the Oct. 20 council meeting.
Extensive Clapp Park vandalism was brought to city council’s attention last month by DPW Superintendent Mark Abbott in his monthly written report. “Youth have kicked spindles out of the gazebo and been seen standing and sitting on the railing, hanging from the rafters, etc,” he said. “Gum has been stuck to the wall of the pavilion and picnic tables carved up and graffiti in various places, as well as quantities of garbage being thrown on the ground even though cans are readily available. I recently took photos of approximately eight youth standing and jumping up and down on the merry-go-round.”
The lone Clapp Park camera was installed in 2015 for a cost of $8,000. The camera doesn’t cover the whole park, and it’s almost impossible to identify anyone in the park at night.
Ramereiz said St. Louis Schools personnel are being helpful, specifically mentioning Superintendent Jennifer McKittrick.
Some high school students are prohibited by the school district from entering park at lunch, Ramereiz said.
Police officers try to keep an eye on the park, especially at night, Ramereiz said, but “we can’t be there constantly, baby sitting the park.”
I don’t mean to be too critical with this comment. But maybe St Louis needs some help with how they spend money. 1) I recently put in 4 cameras that take perfectly clear pictures in the dark. AND they only cost $200! NOT $8000 a piece! 2) I know someone that just bought a wheel loader for a one time payment of $40,000. NOT $60,000+ every 3 years. What am I missing as to this horrific waste of tax payer money?