At long last: Filer Township’s sewer project reaches finish line

Pictured (left to right) are Brian Sousa of Wade Trim; Terry Walker, Filer Township supervisor; Andy Granskog of the USDA; and Blake Smith. Filer's sewer system underwent final inspection this week. (Dylan Savela/News Advocate)

Pictured (left to right) are Brian Sousa of Wade Trim; Terry Walker, Filer Township supervisor; Andy Granskog of the USDA; and Blake Smith. Filer’s sewer system underwent final inspection this week. (Dylan Savela/News Advocate)

FILER TWP. — Bringing municipal waste treatment to its businesses along the U.S. 31 corridor has been a long time coming for Filer Township.

And now a reality, its positive impact is expected to last much longer.

“To see this finally come to fruition is very exciting,” said Filer Township supervisor Terry Walker. “It took a long time — even predating me as supervisor — but after well over 20 years, it’s extremely satisfying to see it complete.

“And the real key to this is looking into the future: a sewer system should attract future businesses to Filer Township.”

Walker, along with numerous individuals who have played roles in pursuing the project over the years, gathered this week to commemorate its completion, as the system underwent final inspection.

The sewer serves properties located in and near Filer’s Downtown Development District along U.S. 31 from Stronach Road to 12th Street, with a branch main also serving businesses located on 28th Street, east of 31. In total, there are 67 parcels in the sewer district.

The system consists of force mains, gravity sewer lines and pump stations, with additions and extensions connecting to the City of Manistee Wastewater Treatment Plant for treatment of the wastewater.

“This is a pretty exciting moment,” said Bob Yates, chair of Filer Township’s DDA. “We’ve been through hours and hours and hours of sessions, trying to be as analytical as possible, and make a good business decision predicated on what was going to be the most economical path, and this really is the best direction.

“This is pivotal to the future,” he added. “Frankly, the only way you’re going to grow is to have the infrastructure in place and that was our belief right from the get-go.”

To finance the project, the township received a loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Development that was obligated for nearly $3.8 million. A $2,665,198 bid was awarded to Elmer’s Crane and Dozer for construction of the project, which began last fall. The township established that $1,525,000 would be assessed against the taxable value of the lots and parcels in its Downtown Development Authority Sewer Special Assessment District.

Brian Sousa, of the firm Wade Trim, was the head engineer on the project.

Reaching an agreement with the City of Manistee to connect to its wastewater treatment plant was one of the biggest challenges in the decades-long process. Discussion between the two entities hit a years-long impasse, but negotiations were revisited in 2015. Walker said the services of attorney Eric Williams were instrumental in the DDA’s discussions with the city.

Ultimately, in early 2016, the township and the city entered into a 40-year agreement for use of the city’s system, which included $400,000 for the connection fee.

“I have to compliment the city,” Walker said. “It took a long time, but we finally got back to the table to negotiate and I think the end result is positive for both the city and the township. It’s a win-win situation.”

City of Manistee mayor Jim Smith agreed.

“It is a win-win,” he said. “The city has the capacity to provide an essential service, and it’s cost effective for Filer Township.

“Any time the city is able to work with Filer or Manistee Township — and even as we get out to Eastlake and Stronach — we should work together in a collaborative fashion if it helps provide services while saving each other money,” Smith added. “This has been a long time coming, but it’s a positive thing.”

Laura Horvat, former chair of Filer’s DDA, has been involved in the process from the start.

“We did our due diligence many, many times over,” she said. “Of all the different options presented to us over the years, we really feel that this was the best route we could have taken.”

Horvat said Tim Fogarty, in his role as the DDA’s treasurer, also played an integral part in the project coming to fruition.

“We’re really quite excited about it,” Horvat said, “and we feel that our constituents feel the same way.”

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Posted by Dylan Savela

Dylan is the county reporter for the News Advocate, he also is in charge of the Small Town Life, religion and senior pages. He can be reached at (231) 398-3111 or dsavela@pioneergroup.com.

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