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ESCANABA — In an effort to keep up with paving projects and comply with new rules handed down by the state, the Escanaba City Council Thursday approved entering into contracts for water line replacements and discussed how to address residents who had already replaced their own lines.
In four separate motions, the council approved entering into contracts for the replacement of water lines deemed contaminated under new rules from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), formerly the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Under the rules, any service line connected to a main using a lead gooseneck or that was once connected by a lead gooseneck is considered contaminated, regardless of the amount of measurable lead present in the property’s water.
EGLE is further requiring cities to begin replacing lead service lines at a rate of 5 percent per year starting in 2021 and leaves the city responsible for all work and costs associated with line replacements up to the property’s water meter, which is typically located inside a basement.
The city is getting a head start in 2019 and has a series of lead service line replacement projects planned, but only some have contractors lined up to complete the work. Thursday the council approved retaining Bradfield Excavating of Gladstone to conduct line replacements at a rate of $2,800 per site or address. Bradfield Excavating will continue replacing lines until the remainder of a grant the city received for lead service line replacements is used up — roughly $126,000.
“I negotiated what I felt was a pretty good deal. There will be some wins and losses. There will be some short sides that they win on, that’ll be a piece of cake. There’s going to be some long ones that they’re gonna lose,” said Water and Wastewater Superintendent Jeff Lampi.
The last three motions made by the council authorized the city to retain and hire any contractor that is licensed and insured to do the work at the same $2,800 rate. One motion specified the contractor hired would be working on 21 services on Sheridan Road in an area that is slated to be repaved, another specified 26 water services located on a paving project on 5th Avenue South, and a third indicated the contractor would be responsible for “the private side of each water service which is deemed necessary by the water department.”
While the motions to move forward with the service line replacements were unanimously approved by the council, Council Member Ron Beauchamp told Lampi he wanted information about the number of residents who replaced service lines at their own expense in the last three or four years in case the council decided to somehow compensate those individuals.
“If it were left to me, I would never bring that to council and ask for that to happen. If that’s something that council wants to bring it down through administration — but I don’t feel that we should be Walmart. Those were last year’s, yesterday’s transactions and they should be completed and dealt with and left behind us,” said Lampi.
It was noted during the meeting that any reimbursements could require the city to have another rate increase and it would be difficult to determine if a line was replaced due to the resident’s fear of lead contamination and not other issues, such as the line being too small or rupturing.
Despite his reservations about issuing any sort of reimbursement, Lampi said he would provide the council with information about recent service line replacements paid for by property owners.
In other business, the council:
– Approved accepting a $300,000 grant and Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Project Agreement Resolution for the North City Limits Non-Motorized Pathway project. The funds will be used to construct a portion of the planned non-motorized trail near Bay College.
– Approved entering into a $17,449 contract with Northland Basement Systems for a second sump pump and related work at the Catherine Bonifas Civic Center. Currently, the basement and firing range at the civic center is flooded up to three inches of water. Because the existing sump pump does not drain to the storm sewer, the city may modify this agreement in the future so that both pumps drain effectively.
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