Portion of Perry Ave. project will be left out for potential sewer repairs

WORK WHERE POSSIBLE: Engineer Mike Oezer, of ProgressiveAE, explains the townships options for construction of a sidewalk on Perry Avenue in tandem with addressing sewer issues in the same area. Township trustees voted 6-0 Tuesday in favor of moving forward on sidewalk work while leaving the area affected by the sewer problems open while they investigate possible repairs. (Pioneer photo/Adam Gac)

WORK WHERE POSSIBLE: Engineer Mike Oezer, of ProgressiveAE, explains the townships options for construction of a sidewalk on Perry Avenue in tandem with addressing sewer issues in the same area. Township trustees voted 6-0 Tuesday in favor of moving forward on sidewalk work while leaving the area affected by the sewer problems open while they investigate possible repairs. (Pioneer photo/Adam Gac)

BIG RAPIDS TWP. — Work on the new sidewalk on Perry Avenue will move forward despite a delay caused by questions surrounding sewer issues in the same area.

The Big Rapids Township Board of Trustees voted 6-0 at a meeting Tuesday in favor of approving the start of work on the sidewalk project, with the exception of a section over a 750-foot portion of sewer between Waldron Way and the Wesco gas station in front of Walmart. The sewer line overflowed on Feb. 6, and trustees were hesitant to build a sidewalk where future construction may be needed.

“We want to move ahead with the sidewalk, but before we do that we want to make sure we’re not going to tear it up,” said township Supervisor Bill Stanek.

Engineer Mike Oezer, of ProgressiveAE, explained why the sewer overflow occurred.

“This piece was installed by directional drill. When you install with directional drill, you don’t have your eyes on it,” he said. “It’s an underground, trenchless method so you’re not tearing anything apart at the ground. When you do that, you can get (peaks and valleys) in the sewers because of the installation method – that results in a sewer that’s not at a perfect slope like open-trench sewers are.

“The pipe slope isn’t consistent and that’s a problem. (Wastewater) levels have to rise up in order to push through. If you are raising the grade up to push through, it means water is sitting in the pipe and not moving at the speed it is in a normal sewer. You get solids settling out in the pipe, eventually it’s like a clogged artery.”

Oezer outlined three potential solutions to problems with the sewer. The first option, replacing the 750-foot line with an open-trench sewer could cost the township more than $300,000. The second option, increasing maintenance to every other month would cost approximately $760 for each maintenance session. The third option, which Oezer insisted be undertaken regardless of what other action the township takes, is to institute a more stringent grease management system.

“A grease management program has to happen no matter what you do, if you replace the sewer or maintain it – particularly if you maintain it,” he said. “A number of restaurants and food preparers out there need to make sure they have the right plumbing, grease trap and making sure they are getting their grease trap vactored out every so often and supplying records of it.”

Trustee Dave Hamelund, in discussing the options for addressing the sewer problem, asked Oezer to clarify what role the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality will play in any changes.

“If we have a maintenance program that turns out to be not sufficient, is the DEQ going to frown on that or are they going to say, ‘Well, you did your best,’?” he asked.

Oezer said he could not be sure what the DEQ would say if the maintenance program was insufficient to prevent any overflows, but the organization would likely not move to fines immediately.

“If you are compliant and desire to work with the DEQ and are working toward a solution under a timeline, they’ll work with you,” he said.

Officials from the township, utility companies, contractors and engineers will meet Thursday for a preconstruction meeting, with construction expected to begin in the coming weeks. There will be a delay to some work as the township waits on a final permit from the Michigan Department of Transportation. The wait for approval follows changes made to engineering drawings for a portion of the sidewalk on Perry Avenue, which is part of M-20.

“It’s in MDOT’s hands and they are processing it right now,” Oezer said. “We’re going to go ahead with the preconstruction meeting and tell the contractor they can’t do anything on the MDOT portion until we get that approval. They can still start on Waldron Way and anything off of Perry.”

Trustees voted in favor of accepting a $347,950 bid from Steve Jones Construction for the creation of a sidewalk along Perry Avenue near Waldron Way in March. The need for a sidewalk has been a topic of discussion in the township since the death of 17-year-old Cody Campagna in September 2012.

In other business, trustees discussed the approval of a Big Rapids Township Fire Department grant application for a drone.

The $7,500 drone kit and a training session is being provided at no cost to the township by TransCanada. The drone will be used for search and rescue, scene evaluation, after action reports and many other purposes, according to a fire department report.

“There’s a multitude of uses for the drone,” said firefighter Chris London, who wrote the grant application.

Stanek said an aerial drone is a device that no other area fire department has to offer and will benefit communities and departments beyond the township.

“We need to look at things that will help the area and allow us to work together more,” he said.

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Posted by Adam Gac

Adam is the Pioneer City/County Reporter, covering government in Mecosta County. He can be reached by e-mail at agac@pioneergroup.com or by phone at (231) 592-8347.

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