County accepts MDARD grant for work at K.I. Sawyer Wastewater Treatment Facility

MARQUETTE — The Marquette County Board of Commissioners at a special meeting held Tuesday approved the acceptance of a Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development grant to replace of 37-year-old influent pumps at the K.I. Sawyer Wastewater Treatment Facility.

The MDARD’s Rural Development Fund awarded Marquette County a $100,000 grant for the project, which was the maximum award amount, Sawyer Operations Manager Steven Schenden said at the meeting.

The replacement of the pumps was originally part of a $4 million project at the plant several years ago, but had to be dropped in favor of more critical items, Schenden said. This grant gives the county a “chance to complete that part of the project,” Schenden said.

“When we did the big renovation project out there a couple of years ago, we didn’t have enough money to do everything. One of the things … was to replace these influent pumps at the wastewater plant. So we put in for this MDARD grant,” he said.

The total cost of the project, Schenden said, will be $160,000. The board approved covering the remaining $60,000 with funds in the Repair Replacement Improvement Fund. The fund’s current balance is about $90,000, with around $67,000 added annually, Schenden said.

The replacement of the 37-year-old influent pumps at the plant aims to improve plant efficiency, as the new pumps will have variable frequency drives, which “saves a lot of electricity,” Schenden said. There will also be technology that can detect and control water levels with greater accuracy, he said.

These features can help the county save on electricity use and maintenance costs for the wastewater treatment plant, he said.

Commissioners commended Schenden on receiving the grant and thanked him for his efforts, as using the $100,000 grant to complete much of the work — rather than taxpayer or ratepayer dollars — will benefit the community at K.I. Sawyer.

“I think it’s good for the water customers at Sawyer, that’s $100,000 that we won’t have to bill them … and if it reduces electrical costs, that’s more savings there,” Schenden said in an interview.

With board approval to accept the grant and use the funds from the Repair Replacement Improvement fund, the project can begin to move forward, Schenden said. They’ll need to first put together a request for qualifications for a consultant that will be hired to finish the design and bid package for the work, then bid out the contract for the project itself.

“Hopefully by the end of the summer, we should be pretty close to having it completed,” Schenden said in an interview.

The grant received for the work at Sawyer is one of 16 Rural Development Fund Grants awarded in the state and one of five awarded for projects in Marquette County, as “preference was given to projects in Marquette County,” according to MDARD. The 16 grants awarded, totaling about $1.245 million, were selected from 66 proposals totaling nearly $5.1 million.

The proposals were evaluated through a competitive process. For more information about this grant program or a complete list of eligible counties, visit

Also at the meeting, the board approved entering an agreement for economic development services with the Lake Superior Community Partnership, following a recommendation from March 5’s committee of the whole meeting.

≤ A 2019 Lake Superior Community Partnership agreement for economic development services.

≤ An air cargo landing fee agreement for Sawyer International Airport.

≤ A state of Michigan aircraft rescue and firefighting grant.

≤ A Marquette County Central Dispatch Policy Board appointment.

≤ A bid for attorney-client rooms, awarded to Hall Contracting, Inc.

≤ A lease for National Carbon at K.I. Sawyer.

≤ Fiscal year 2018 budget amendments.

Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248.