City seeks loans & grants to fund $78 million in sewer/water improvements

By Ralph Echtinaw

St. Louis will get $78 million in sewer and water system upgrades if two loan applications are approved and grants are awarded to mitigate the cost.

Last month city council agreed to apply for a $41 million loan from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to pay for sewer and wastewater treatment plant upgrades. 

This week council agreed to apply for a $37 million loan from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund to pay for 5.8 miles of water main replacement.

The genesis of this plan came in November 2021 when President Biden signed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. Some $55 billion of that is earmarked for sewer and water grants to municipalities nationwide. St. Louis will have plenty of competition when grants are awarded later this year as other cities seek to get a piece of the $55 billion pie. 

But as Steve Warren of the civil engineering firm OHM put it last month: “The city of St. Louis is considered significantly overburdened, and that’s going to help your cause.”

St. Louis is definitely in the low-income category where Michigan cities are concerned with a median annual household income of $43,777, ranking it 1,294th out of 1,520 cities and townships.

The city should know by the end of August if its loans are approved and (equally important) how much of the loans will be mitigated by grants.

The water proposal

Council saw a presentation Tuesday from Lou Fleury of OHM, who recommends replacing at least 5.8 miles of water line in St. Louis over five years beginning in 2024. The projected cost is $37.11 million. 

Without grants, the city would have to raise residential water rates by $72/month to pay off the loan, Fleury said.

Practically speaking, council will likely pass on the loan if a substantial portion of the total cost isn’t covered by a federal grant. (In March city council postponed plans to replace sewer and water lines on North Pine because it would have necessitated charging homeowners an additional $20/month.)

Old water mains

According to Fleury’s presentation, 25 percent of water mains in St. Louis are at least 83 years old. Another 35 percent are at least 43 years old. 

Sewer investigation

The city continues to take steps to keep the dilapidated sewer and water lines on North Pine Street in service following city council’s decision to postpone a total reconstruction of North Pine and part of Center Street in March.

On Tuesday council approved hiring Elite Pipeline Services of Allendale for $5,900 to use its sewer line cameras to shed light on parts of the North Pine sewer that is a bit of a mystery to Public Services Director Keith Risdon, et. al.

“We’ve got at least three sewer lines down there we have no information on,” Risdon said Tuesday. “I told (DPW Superintendent) Calvin (Martyn) if this goes through tonight I want him to get in touch with these people tomorrow and see about getting as much information as quickly as possible.”

“We’d like to get some more investigation performed along this Pine and Center street route and identify strategies since we’re not doing that reconstruction this year,” said City Manager Kurt Giles.

Tornado warning siren purchased

Council approved spending $27,200 with West Shore Services of Allendale for a Federal Signal 2001 Equinox low-frequency AC/DC remote siren. (The old siren is at least 20 years old and hasn’t worked since sometime last year.)

The city will get a $1,740 discount because Electric Department personnel will place the new siren pole on Electric Plant property.

The old siren pole is in the back yard of the three-story apartment building on the north side of downtown to the across the street. It will be removed once the new siren is up and running.

The Federal 2001 AC/DC model has been a “very popular unit,” said West Shore Services President Jeff DuPilka in a letter to the city. “We have sold 2,200 of these units in Michigan over the last 35 years. This unit is reliable, and you will see very little annual maintenance associated with (it).”

Giles said the new siren will have more range than the old siren. “The product literature notes 70 dB at a distance of up to 6,100 feet,” he said via email.

Blight elimination grant

Council approved a request from DDA Director Phil Hansen to apply for blight elimination funds through the state land bank.“We don’t even have a project in particular yet,” Hansen told council. “But we’ve got two weeks (before the filing deadline), so I think we can figure out something.”

Police staffing

Police Chief Richard J. Ramereiz Jr. said new Officer Patrick Herson is patrolling solo after six weeks of field training. Meanwhile, Kyle Eisenberger, the Shepherd man the city put through the Delta College Police Academy, graduated on May 5 and began field training on May 8. He should complete his field training in August.

Computer purchase

Council approved spending $23,000 with Rehmann for 12 desktop computers. They will replace computers that are more than five years old.

Orchard Hills tree removal

Malley Construction, the contractor extending a water line in Orchard hills subdivision, has told the city it will remove several trees that are in the way as follows:

Spruce tree at Saxton residence ($1,350).

Four small trees and One triple-trunk elm in cul-de-sac on Wilson Place ($4,900).

Cluster of trees at end of cul-de-sac on Wilson Place ($8,000).

One maple tree at 225 Wilson Place ($2,000).

DPW report

DPW Superintendent Calvin Martyn reports that his crew has been picking up an average of 350 yard waste bags per week of late. He predicts it will continue at that rate for couple more weeks then start to come down.

Full disclosure

This reporter is a candidate for St. Louis mayor and will be on your Nov. 7 ballot. No other name will be on the ballot for mayor, as not one of the 3,800 other St. Louis residents turned in petitions for the job.

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