Bear Lake water system project to continue through spring

The Bear Lake water system project began in late spring and are expected to continue through this year. The project will improve the water service throughout the village. (News Advocate file photo)

The Bear Lake water system project began in late spring and are expected to continue through this year. The project will improve the water service throughout the village. (News Advocate file photo)

BEAR LAKE — Residents will continue to see progress on the water system project throughout this year as officials and construction crews work to provide better water service in Bear Lake.

Ken Mlcek, project manager from Fleis & Vandenbrink, provided an update on the water system project, which was initially projected to be completed this fall but will continue through spring. He said the project included two construction contracts.

“Contract No. 1 replaced the water-main in several parts of the village and installed water meters for village water customers,” he said. “Contract No. 2 will construct new municipal wells and a well house.  Exploratory drilling for the wells is nearly complete and preparation for the installation of the wells will begin soon.”

The village went out for bids on the project in February, seeking contractors for two portions of the project, one focused on water mains/infrastructure and the other on the drilling of the wells.

After receiving recommendations from its engineering firm Fleis & VandenBrink, as well as the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development, the village board awarded the contracts to Gustafson HDD, LLC. of Pentwater and Cole Inc. of Cadillac.

The new wells will be installed on the east side of Smith Street, opposite of the current wells. Water mains will be installed along U.S. 31 and eight other streets in the village, servicing approximately 190 households.

“A little over 12,000 feet of new water-main with valves and hydrants is complete,” he said. “Water meter installation will be done very soon. The contractor will be back in the spring to address a few minor cleanup items.”

The need for upgrading the village’s water supply system was laid out in a Water System Reliability Study, conducted in 2013, as well as a Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Water System Evaluation in 2014.

Those procedures determined the village had undersized water mains to maintain reliable water pressure, aged wells that were unable to meet desired flow capacity, a number of inoperable valves and hydrants in the distribution system, unreliable well house disinfection equipment and the absence of water meters for customers in the village.

“The upgrades include reconstruction of a substantial portion of the water distribution system which replaced old and undersized water main, and old and inoperable valves and fire hydrants,” Mlcek explained. “Replacement of the water-main with a larger diameter water-main will increase flow for fire protection throughout the village. Approximately 100 water services were replaced within the right-of-way. These new water services replaced old water services, some of which were very brittle and prone to leaking.”

According to Mlcek, the total cost for the project is about $4,010,000. The funding is provided through the USDA Rural Development loan/grant program. The loan/grant breakdown for the project is a loan for $1,463,000 and a grant for $2,547,000.

Sites are being investigated for new wells, including the current well-field as well as the site to the east of the existing well-field. Exact locations on these properties have not been finalized.

“The new wells and well house will replace the village’s aged existing wells that have required increased maintenance costs and are at the end of their useful life,” said Mlcek. “The new well house will contain modern controls for the village water supply system.”

According to Mlcek, the site to the east of the existing well site was purchased from Bear Lake Schools and is being considered as a potential well site. Test wells were installed during design of the project to test water quality.

Some residents were concerned about the cost and installation of water meters, and Mlcek said the information was not yet available.

“It has been recommended that the village obtain a substantial amount of water usage data before a meter fee and usage rate are established – this could take a year or more as the village takes meter readings to obtain the data,” he said. “This data is essential to develop the appropriate meter fee and usage rate that will be necessary to support the water system.”

Attempts to contact current village president Marla Evans and past president Jeff Bair for further information on the project were unsuccessful.

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