Bond process moves forward in township

DURANT

MARQUETTE — Trustees with the Marquette Township Board approved the first step in the process of bonding up to $4.5 million to pay for water system improvements to parts of Trowbridge Park, but pressed its engineering consultants for more information related to the project — such as the condition of the area’s existing water system.

The board unanimously approved publishing a notice of intent to issue the bonds, which is part of securing a state-administered Drinking Water Revolving Fund loan that would be repaid over 20 years at 2.5 percent interest using township water system revenues.

“This doesn’t require the township to actually issue the bonds, it just starts the process,” said Tom Colis, with Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone PLC. “Again, … it doesn’t have to be the $4.5 million, it can be whatever number below that.”

The board’s action Tuesday authorized the publication of a bond notice, which starts a 45-day referendum period. Bonds may be issued without a vote of township electors, unless a petition signed by at least 10 percent of the township’s registered electors is filed in that time period with the Marquette Township Clerk’s office requesting a public vote on the matter.

Water system improvements are being considered to areas of Trowbridge Park scheduled this year for road reconstruction under the township’s Local Roads Rehabilitation Project. Preliminary estimates with varied amounts of work range between about $2.6 million and $3.26 million for the water portion. The road work was budgeted around $1.5 million.

WIEGAND

However, trustees questioned whether the pipes need to be replaced now, or if they’ll last another 15 years or so, when the roadways would be due for another reconstruction.

“There’s got to be a way to quantify this to say at a certain point, it makes sense to spend $4.5 million for a project,” Trustee Dave Wiegand said. “We just raised the (water) rates nearly $5 this year, we’re talking about raising them next year $9.25 for 20 more years for this water project that I don’t believe we’ve established that we need as urgently as it’s being suggested we need it.”

Wiegand said depending on certain soil types, ductile iron pipes, such as those installed in Trowbridge Park, can last up to 100 years. He said the board doesn’t have a lot of the information it should to make its final decision on the project, including: the remaining life expectancy of the pipes and related equipment; frequency of pipe or equipment failures; an accurate percentage of water loss; and how much that loss costs the township.

The majority of Trowbridge Park’s water system was installed in the early- to mid-1970s.

“You have an approximately 50-year-old water system in Trowbridge Park made up of ductile iron pipe, valves, hydrants, curb stops and corp stops,” said Matt Treado, an engineer with U.P. Engineers and Architects. “The exact life expectancy of that ductile iron pipe is unknown. The pipe manufacturers themselves will say in a perfect scenario, perfect soil conditions, no acidity, it can last up to 100 years. … But that has not actually been seen in practice yet, because the water main itself was just starting to get utilized 50 to 55 years ago.”

Wiegand said soil testing can be done to test the acidity of the soil, which he believed to be important information the board should have before making a decision, and Supervisor Lyn Durant agreed.

“We’ve got a 50-year-old set of … pipes that could last 100 based on what the manufacturer is saying, but we have no criteria to say,” Durant said. “But if we’re not going to the (second) road (reconstruction) project for another 10 years or 15 years, and we can establish this (water system) is going to last for 15 years, then we don’t have to do them right now.”

Part of why the project is being considered is to avoid the expense of having to repair roadways twice should an old water main fail beneath a recently reconstructed road. But Treado said the improvements were viewed as important by consultants, township staff and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for other reasons.

“We’re taking a system component that’s been outlined in the master plan as something that’s needing to be upgraded, not purely on a cost basis, but on a maintenance, reliability, flushing capability (and) quality of water being provided to the residents,” Treado said.

He later added improved fire flow to the list of results by increasing the size of the mains to 8 inches, which is strongly encouraged by the DEQ.

“The longevity of the water main is one of many implications as far as us deciding, at least in my opinion, if we should move forward with the project or not,” Treado said. “There are also a lot of other … aspects — the hydrants, the valves, the corp stops, the curb stops — that, at the end of the day, don’t have anything to do with how long the water main itself would last. They’re separate components, they could degrade at a different rate.”

Treado said he will look into details of conducting the soil tests, which could be incorporated with upcoming soil borings related to the roads project.

Wiegand said he was surprised there weren’t more community members at the meeting, considering they will likely see a total increase of $15 per month on their water bills from where their rates were set last year.

“The sad part is is that if we go ahead and pull the trigger on this without looking at all the information, when the majority of residents are going to show up and complain about it is when they get $15 extra on their bill, which is way too late at that point because it’s there,” he said. “It’s going to be there for the next 20 years.”

Ryan Jarvi can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 270.