ISHPEMING - Not having received its Environmental Protection Agency grant award for phase two of the Partridge Creek diversion project, the Ishpeming City Council has directed city staff to take a second look at the project before settling on an engineering firm to do the design work.
At last week's meeting, the council voted to delay the selection of an engineering firm until its next meeting, allowing city staff to look at separating the phase into two projects - one centering on storm sewer reconstruction and the other on the development of the open channel system that will connect to the storm sewer.
The diversion project, with phase one under construction, removes Partridge Creek from running through the mine workings beneath the city, where it is picking up mercury contamination, and diverts the water into the city's storm sewer to rejoin the Carp Creek on the west end of the city where it flows into Deer Lake.
Having sent out a request for qualifications, the city received responses from two engineering firms - GEI Consultants, which did the engineering work for phase one, and AECOM.
As part of the process, city staff had ranked the two firms based on statements submitted by them, with GEI coming out slightly ahead in the ranking.
"GEI has some history here," said Michael Gatzow, vice president of GEI. "We're fully prepared to proceed with phase two if you choose to hire us. We're very confident we can expedite the permitting and design of phase two in the time frame you desire. Secondly, we do have full capability in house to do all the services requested in phase two."
AECOM representative Scott Richards asked the council to look at splitting the project into two segments, allowing for the possibility the two firms could work together with AECOM bringing in sub consultant and stream restoration specialist firm Collins and Baker Engineering.
"Stream restoration by length accounts for roughly 40 percent of the project, and we feel that's the portion of the project the community is going to have the most interaction with," Richards said. "The storm water pipe design and stream restoration design portions of the project we feel can be accomplished by two teams."
Paige Baker of Collins and Baker was also at the meeting and spoke about her experience working on a five-mile restoration project on the Dead River.
"This is a unique opportunity for the city of Ishpeming," Baker said. "The result is a river that works with the natural tendency of the river to provide a natural and aesthetically pleasing amenity for the community."
In addition, the council voted to opt out of the state's Public Act 152 of 2011, which requires municipalities with employee healthcare plans to set an 80-20 split for the cost with employees, set a hard cap dollar amount for how much the city can spend on health care or to opt out of the program for a year. The council's action was specific to the city's supervisory union and non-union employees whose benefits are based on the supervisory union contract.
Because of the timing of the act and the benefit year for the Department of Public Works, police and clerical unions, the supervisory union would have been the only bargaining unit affected by the requirements this year. Opting out of the act keeps all the unions on the same footing, according to city officials. The motion to opt out was approved unanimously.
In other action, the council approved several ordinance amendments, which included mostly wording changes, as emergency ordinances and gave final approval to the rezoning of the former C.L. Phelps School property and final action for creating a special tax assessment district to help finance road repairs, both in their second reading. The city's next step with the special assessment district is to finalize the tax roles and send notices to the property owners affected by the assessment.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is email@example.com.