By Ralph Echtinaw
After 17 years of faithful service, the city’s salt spreader truck will be retired and replaced by a new and improved version.
City councilmen approved purchase of the replacement Tuesday for a cost of $175,432.
“International tends to have a truck that fits us best,” said DPW Superintendent Mark Abbott. “I think that’s the best we can do.”
“This truck was budgeted at $165,000,” Abbott reported. “But steel prices have increased. This truck was requested but unfunded last year, and I believe that cost increases will continue.”
The upgrades include a stainless steel box that will withstand corrosion better than mild steel boxes. “The steel boxes have rusted out even with undercoating and paint repairs,” Abbott said. “Many municipalities and road commissions have also upgraded to stainless steel boxes for this reason.”
Abbott also ordered a “pre-wetting kit” for the mechanism that applies salt to roads.
“This option sprays the rock salt with liquid chloride as it is applied to the road,” Abbott reported. “This process speeds and improves the rock salt’s performance in melting snow and ice and helps reduce salt use.”
The city already buys liquid chloride for 7.5 cents per gallon from Michigan Chloride on Jackson Road and uses it in the summer for dust control on gravel streets. Three applications a year are done for a total cost of $2,000. “Our estimated winter costs for the pre-wetting of the salt is about $500,” Abbott said via email. “While this seems very low please remember that this process only mists the salt as it is being thrown and is not wetting the entire road heavily as in dust control operations. Pre-wetting does lower the amount of salt needed for the same benefit. The extra cost of the chloride will be offset easily by the salt savings.”
Other equipment ordered includes an underbody articulating scraper blade, front hitch mount for the city’s wing plows, rear hitch and safety lighting system.
The truck being replaced, a 2003 model, “has been worked hard during its time in our fleet, being the main salt spreader for 17 years, which has taken a toll on the box and cab,” Abbott reported. The old truck will be sold at auction. Abbott expects it to fetch at least $10,000.
Only one other company responded to Abbott’s request for bids. That was JX Peterbilt of Grand Rapids which bid $92,000.
Three companies bid on equipment for the truck:
Knapheid Equipment: $102,975
Heights Truck Equipment: $99,978
Shults Equipment: $99,635
Abbott expects the new truck to be delivered in late fall or early winter.
Director Linda Bader told councilmen Tuesday that the St. Louis Farmers Market will open on June 3.
As of now she plans to continue the virus restrictions that marked last year’s farmers market experience.
That includes requiring masks, keeping vendors far part, one-way traffic through the vendors, sanitizer stations and no music (“Because people gather and stand around,” Bader said).
Bader added that it’s better to lift restrictions as the season progresses than to begin without restrictions.
Councilman Roger Collison asked if the search is still on for another location for farmers market, which sets up in the city hall parking lot.
City Manager Kurt Giles said they looked at 15 locations, narrowed it down to three, and all three of them are problematic for one reason or another. “We’re kind of at a standstill right now,” he said.
Basketball court upgrade
The city has received a $7,500 grant from the Gratiot County Community Foundation to replace the basketball court in Lincoln Park. (That’s located on the east side of Lincoln Street just south of the railroad tracks.) It is hoped that construction will begin in June.
Water system upgrade
City staff are racing to meet the July 1 application deadline for a grant of up to $3 million to identify and replace lead water pipes connecting homes and businesses to city water.
The Michigan Department of Environment Great Lakes and Energy has $103 million to distribute to qualified cities that apply for the grants.
City staff have no idea how many lead service lines are in St. Louis. “But for many installations, we have records of the piping materials,” Giles said. “For instances where the piping material is unknown, investigation would include creating small excavations to expose piping at key locations and inspecting the piping material as it enters the building.”
All this may require a special council meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 23. It would be a Zoom meeting, so interested residents could watch from home.
Clapp Park security
Police Chief Richard J. Ramereiz Jr. told councilmen Tuesday that the Gratiot County Community Foundation has awarded St. Louis a $3,189 grant to help pay for one additional security camera in Clapp Park, where vandalism has been a problem of late.
Taxes going up
Last year voters approved a 0.96 mill levy for the St. Louis, Ithaca, Pine River Transit Authority so Dial-a-Ride buses can pick up and drop off passengers in those three municipalities. That takes effect with with summer tax bills and continue for five years.
Councilmen set an April 6 public hearing date for a proposed no-parking zone next to a house on the corner of Maple and Chestnut. Someone has been parking a truck right there on the corner, which blocks the view south for a vehicle westbound on Chestnut. The ordinance would forbid parking on that corner. If you object to this proposal you should show up and speak your piece.
Councilmen declined to offer the city’s official support to Ann Arbor as it prepares to contest proposed new regulations regarding hydroelectric dams by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Ann Arbor owns four municipal dams and fears that proposed new regulations will amount to an unfunded mandate that will increase the cost of maintenance.
The city plans to ask the FERC to exempt municipal dams from its new regulations.
Councilmen Roger Collison, Tom Reed and Bill Leonard agreed that more information is needed on Ann Arbor’s proposal. “I’m not ready to put our name on that document,” Collison said.
Reed chimed in with this: “We didn’t have time to do any research.”
Ann Arbor is expected to file its appeal today.
Council election this year
City council seats held by George Kubin and Tom Reed are on the ballot this year, as is the mayor position.
Kubin announced Tuesday that he will seek re-election. Reed hadn’t responded to an email inquiry by the time this article was posted. Mayor James Kelly has already said he won’t seek another term.
If you would like to run for city council or mayor you can pick up a nominating petition at city hall. You’ll need the signatures of 29 registered voters living inside the city limits to get on the ballot. Petitions must be turned in by 4 p.m. Tuesday, April 20.
Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 2.