City plans major road, water, sewer work in 2023 despite dramatically rising costs

By Ralph Echtinaw

Inflation is forcing St. Louis to dip into its reserve funds in addition to adding bond debt to finance two major road, water and sewer projects next year.

“We need to make some decisions on project funding, especially as it relates to sewer improvements and road reconstruction, as the costs of projects have exceeded all estimates,” said Finance Director Bobbi Marr in a memo. “And available funding is not sufficient to meet the needs of projects that we are already partially invested in. It will be necessary to issue bonds, use replacement reserves and perhaps a need for general fund to assist in funding.”

The two major projects are reconstruction of Pine Street (including curb, gutter, sewer and water) and water main replacement on Prospect, Hebron, Tamrack, Berea and Wells. (The latter includes replacement of some segments of the road and partial replacement of the sanitary sewer near the intersection of Prospect and Sharon.)

The city already has a $250,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Transportation for the Pine Street project, but that only covers a fraction of the cost. City Manager Kurt Giles told council members Tuesday that the Pine Street project is estimated to cost $2.5 million for the road, $735,000 for the water main and $600,000 for the sewer for a grand total of $3.8 million. The Prospect, Hebron, Tamrack, Berea and Wells project is expected to cost $1.35 million.

Giles expects to use $1.28 million from the Public Improvement Fund $625,000 from the Major Streets Reserve and $280,000 from the General Fund.

On top of that, “We believe it would be time to issue another $2.7 million of water and sewer revenue bonds,” Giles said.

Cop car engine ordered

Council members voted unanimously to buy a rebuilt engine for the police department’s 2016 Dodge Charger from Alma Chrysler for $9,114.

The vehicle has 115,000 miles on it, and the engine is shot.

Tony Helfer of Alma Chrysler said a compression test showed “hardly any” compression in four cylinders. “It sounds like the lower end has bearing failure, possible wrist pin failure. The best thing you could do at this point if you’re going to keep it is to put a motor in. From my knowledge with these pursuit cars, it’s not even worth tearing down and costing you money.”

The city’s other options were a new engine for $10,348 and a used engine for $7,524

However, that purchase is merely a stopgap until the city can afford to add another Ford Explorer to its fleet of five vehicles. (Currently, police have two 2020 Explorers, a 2014 Charger that is an admin car, the 2016 Charger and a 1989 military surplus High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle.)

Giles said he will try to line up a grant for a third Explorer. But it will take 30-35 weeks to get one after it’s ordered.

New officer

Jakin Clark, 22, graduated from the Delta College Police Academy on Friday, Dec. 16, and officially started his St. Louis police career Monday. He’ll ride with officers Matt Van Hall and Greg Kolhoff until they think he’s competent enough to work alone.

The city paid Clark’s $8,353 tuition in return for an agreement to work at least three years for St. Louis. 

Not far behind Clark is Kyle Eisenberger, 24, of Shepherd, whom the city is also putting through the Delta College Police Academy. He expects to graduate on May 5 and join the police force soon thereafter.

The city paid $8,353 for his tuition, but half of that will be reimbursed by state government. Like Clark, he will be contractually obligated to work for St. Louis for three years.

Forgotten manhole discovered

You may have noticed a plethora of road work signs and cones in the middle of the Mill/M46 intersection during the week of Dec. 12-16 and wondered what was going on.

It turned out to be an interesting story about a forgotten manhole.

The tale begins last summer when Commercial Bank reported slow flow from its sewer line. DPW made a repair, but the problem persisted. Complicating matters, the city has no records of the M46 sewer line east of Mill Street. 

Last week DPW personnel entered the sanitary sewer manhole in the middle of the intersection. They cleared 37 feet of line before the cutter head got stuck, said Public Services Director Keith Risdon in his monthly report. Risdon researched city files and plans while DPW Director Calvin Martyn worked with MDOT, and they found information that “a manhole approximately 36 feet from the one we were in was supposed to have been adjusted up as part of a 2002 MDOT resurfacing project,” Risdon reported. 

“The adjacent manholes had been adjusted, and there was no record as to why this one wasn’t. As we needed to continue to clear the sewer line as well as recover our cutter head, Calvin coordinated with area contractors and services to cut the pavement where we thought the manhole was buried.” They guessed correctly, and the manhole was found and raised so it’s now even with the pavement. “DPW now has a manhole to access the M46 sewer for future cleaning of this older line,” Risdon wrote.

Messer to Planning Commission

Council voted unanimously to appoint Diandra Messer, 24, to the planning commission. As the county’s deputy permits officer, Messer has been the acting recording secretary for the Gratiot County Planning Commission. “My intent is to become more involved as a community member,” she wrote in a letter to the city. “I would like to be involved in this process of making decisions that will benefit my town and neighbors. The growth I’ve witnessed in St. Louis as well as the projected expansion shows me the planning commission is a great place where I can use my knowledge to benefit future developments.”

Clerk announces retirement

City Clerk Mari Ann Ryder, 61, told city council Tuesday that her last day will be Jan. 27 after 25 years working for the city. Giles said the job will be posted internally to begin the process.

Categories: Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s