Additions to water project work approved

Heavy equipment is used on First Street in Ishpeming to prepare the surface of the street for pavement installation. The Ishpeming City Council approved three projects related to its $10.5 million water project on Monday including sidewalk repairs, electrical conduit installation and storm sewer repairs on First, Second and Pearl streets. (Journal photo by Lisa Bowers)

ISHPEMING –The Ishpeming City Council approved three projects in downtown areas affected by its ongoing water system improvement project during a special meeting on Monday.

The council voted unanimously to replace 2,168 square feet of downtown sidewalks on the east side of First Street, the north side of Pearl Street and the west side of Second Street for $18,750.

The city is improving a substantial part of its water infrastructure, with financing provided through a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development loan.

In an email to the council, city staff and contractors involved in the water project, City Manager Mark Slown said those sidewalks had been marked as unsafe during a walkthrough inspection of work that was nearing completion.

Slown said per state law, a 2-inch vertical discontinuity — meaning the surface is uneven by 2 inches in height — “is presumed to be unsafe.”

A construction worker in hooks up the water in a trench in downtown Ishpeming as part of the city’s water project. The Ishpeming City Council approved three projects related to its $10.5 million water project on Monday including sidewalk repairs, electrical conduit installation and storm sewer repairs on First, Second and Pearl streets. (Journal photo by Lisa Bowers)

“I strongly recommend that all unsafe sidewalks be replaced at this time — despite extra cost — for the protection of pedestrians and to move forward with the redevelopment of the community,” Slown said.

Councilman Karl Lehmann asked why the proposed projects were not presented to the council sooner.

“My curiosity is that this is coming up weekly, and I understand that,” Lehmann said. “But it would have seemed to me that if we were going through these streets, then we would have already identified, and we would have looked at projects allied to that right alongside it and had some kind of a heads-up a while back. Because, those 2-inch bumps didn’t just start, they have been there forever.”

Even though the sidewalks are in the area of the water project, the cost of the additional work would need to be funded by the city because the damage was pre-existing, GEI Consultants Project Manager Mark Stoor said. The additional work, while optional, would represent a cost savings for the city because the contractor was already working in the area, he explained.

“You don’t have to touch any of those (areas) in this phase,” Stoor said. “It’s just, while you have a contractor right there, do you want to do this?”

Slown said the sidewalk work will be funded by the city funds.

“In this case, these are very close to the heart of the downtown, and are areas that are long overdue for being fixed as has been pointed out before. If we had the cash before to do this, we would have done it,” Slown said “A lot of that $290,000 is because we had just gotten new money in from the state from the governor’s allocation of the state’s budget surplus, so I think the timing is appropriate.”

Council members rejected a $120,000 to $180,000 proposal to replace 13 streetlights within the project area on Pearl, First, and Second streets, but did approve a $40,000 expenditure to run underground conduit with utility boxes to the light locations, which will be used for future streetlight replacement.

Funds for the project will likely come from the city’s public improvement fund.

Several council members said the money would be better spent on road replacement and repair than streetlight upgrades.

“We are a bedroom community now, and people are having a hard time getting to their homes because they have to weave around chuck holes,” Councilman Mike Tonkin said. “They spend their money elsewhere than downtown, but they live here. We’ve got to try to shift our priorities to that effect.”

The council also approved a $6,000 expenditure to replace a manhole and a brick storm sewer near the intersection of Pearl and Third streets.

The work would be paid for using USDA-RD funds, Stoor said, because the storm sewer was broken as a result of the project.