Drain erosion could cause problems

DRAIN DITCH: City Manager Steve Sobers tells attendees about the issues erosion is causing for a nearby sewer line. (Pioneer photo/Meghan Haas)

DRAIN DITCH: City Manager Steve Sobers tells attendees about the issues erosion is causing for a nearby sewer line. (Pioneer photo/Meghan Haas)

BIG RAPIDS — A resolution was passed to keep sewage out of the Muskegon River.

Big Rapids city commissioners set a resolution into action authorizing any emergency purchases for repairs to erosion in a drainage ditch. A sewage pipe intersects the drainage ditch, making the erosion within the ditch an important issue. Commissioners voted to allow City Manager Steve Sobers to pay any necessary fees to fix the erosion issue. He will report any charges over $7,500 to commissioners.

The Ives Drain, starting on Perry Avenue, near the Holiday Inn Hotel and Conference Center, and flowing into a number of retention areas across Ferris State University before flowing into residential areas, has had massive amounts of erosion over the past five years, Sobers said.

“The sanitary sewer that we are very concerned about, a tree fell across the ditch and deflected water toward the northern back,” he said. “There is probably about five feet, or so, that has eroded away in the last five years, but now is exposed for a good 35- to 40- foot stretch.”

“The base of the drain is below the sanitary sewer pipe so in a major kind of downpour, water is undercutting that pipe and if that is allowed to continue, my prediction is that in a year or two, that pipe is going to fail and you’re going to have raw sewage from a 24-inch pipe running directly into the stream, and on to the Muskegon River. We cannot let that happen.”

One of the problems, Sobers said, is that erosion has happened. The long-term goal is to slow down the erosion factor coming from the Ives Drain and perhaps beyond the drain, which carries sand out to the river and creates an obstruction.

“We have a couple of challenges,” Sobers said. “We have silt in the Muskegon River that needs to be addressed, we have trees and debris in the drain, which is something we ought to address and clean up, we have a home on Cherry Avenue whose property is eroding away, and in time is jeopardizing that home, and we have the potential of a sanitary failure that is catastrophic.”

Sobers said the solution to these problems is for commissioners to request the Drain Commissioner Jackie Fitzgerald to make Ives Drain a county drain. Fitzgerald would then hire Spicer Group to review the costs for a study to make Ives Drain a county drain. The city would pay the costs of the study upfront.

Spicer Group will be in Big Rapids this week to walk along the drain to determine the cost of study, which should be reported at the next regularly scheduled city commission meeting.

The study would be done at city’s request and at city’s payment, and then the decision would be made to move forward, said Big Rapids Mayor Mark Warba. The engineers of Spicer Group may decide no improvement is needed or may decided a lot of improvement is needed. At that point, Warba said commissioners would decide if they want to move forward to make Ives Drain a county drain.

Dave Cushway, Big Rapids Wastewater Treatment Plant superintendent, said if the 24-inch sewer line were to break, it would cause problems for the city.

“We would have massive amounts of raw sewage flowing onto the ground, and eventually into the river,” he said. “It would be a surface overflow, which would be a health concern and the Department of Environmental Quality would see it as a violation.”

Cushway said if the sewage pipe were to break, the DEQ would issue multiple fines to the city.

In other business, Warba discussed the proposed regional recreational authority between the city and Big Rapids Public Schools.

“Now that we have the ability to create the partnership, we have to decide what to do with it,” he said. “We need to keep in mind the recreational opportunities we can create, now that the legislation has been changed to allow this partnership.”

City commissioners and BRPS board members discussed how excited they are for the recreation authority to be forming, and how many members should be on the board, as well as some of the risks and rewards of creating a recreation authority board.

No action was taken.

In other news, commissioners voted 5-0 to label the partial remarciting of the Charles E. Fairman Community Pool as “emergency status.” Now that the resolution has passed, Sobers can call to collect bids and make a decision to pay for the immediate repairs when he finds the best price.

“We have two representative proposals for remarciting the pool on immediate basis. The pool will be closing down shortly. If we do the remarciting this fall it has the technical advantage of the ambient temperature being fairly warm,” he said.

Sobers said for the remarciting to take place, the pool would need to be emptied for the process, after the remarciting the pool would need to be filled with treated water that would be continuously circulated. The water in the pool also would need to be above a temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit. It takes 28 days to cure the marcite.

Marcite is a mixture of crushed marble and concrete. To remarcite the pool, the company in charge of the repair will need to spread new marcite across the floor of the pool in the designated area, where the main entrances are and where children spend the most time in the shallower end.

“This is an emergency,” said Pat Horan, pool director. “It needs to be done now. In the spring, the weather is never guaranteed. The company is going to do the part where the children walk, and lessons are held. I walk on it every day, and the little kids. The floor is like sandpaper. To save the pool, this needs to be done now. It is crucial.”

In other business:

  • A resolution was passed to allow Music Industry Management Association to have a beer tent at the Music on the Muskegon Festival on Oct. 1, provided that employees have to present their liquor license to the city commission.
  • A resolution was passed to accept a continued two-year agreement between Dial-A-Ride and Ferris State University to shuttle students to and from campus.
  • A resolution was passed to award a bid of $12,300 to make improvements to the Wastewater Treatment Plant to Northwest Kent Mechanical. Improvements include a better delivery system for ferric chloride to scum pits.
  • Ordinance changes to allow a small veterinary system on Water Tower Road were approved. Riversbend Animal Hospital will split into two entities, with the animal hospital moving to the previous Hope Network building on Water Tower Road, and the grooming and boarding  to remain at Riversbend’s current address.
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Posted by Meghan Gunther-Haas

Meghan is the education reporter for the Pioneer and Herald Review. She can be reached at (231) 592-8382 or by email at mhaas@pioneergroup.com.

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