By Jim Newell
The Village of Lake Orion will begin replacing its aging water main infrastructure today, part of a four-phase overall project that is expected to take several years to complete.
The current work schedule includes phases 1 and 2 and will cost $5.1 million.
Village Council President Ken Van Portfliet said the village started researching and applying for funding for the water main replacement program about four years ago and is part of an overall infrastructure improvement plan.
“Last year we did the dam. This year we’re doing the roads, the water and continuing on our infrastructure improvement program here in the community,” Van Portfliet said. “We’re a community in Michigan that is addressing the problem ahead of others.”
“So, we finally secured our funding and here we are with the beginning (of the project). Which is going to cover about 60 percent of the (total) project in phases 1 and 2,” Van Portfliet said.
Manager Joe Young said phases 1 and 2 will cover about five miles of water main replacement of eight total miles that will eventually be replaced.
Fontana Construction, Inc. out of Sterling Heights was awarded the construction bid for the project.
“We’re excited about Fontana doing the project. They’re quite experienced and knowledgeable and we hope to have minimal disruption and get as much pipe laid as possible before the snow flies,” Young said.
Phase 1 will continue this fall as long as weather permits and resume in the spring of 2019. The tentative completion date for phase 1 and 2 is fall 2019.
“It’s something we’ve been working on for a number of years, and today is the day,” Van Portfliet said. “We feel that it’s really an improvement for the community. Where do you live where they’re aggressively attacking infrastructure issues? We’re doing that here in the village – it’s property values, it’s safety, it’s the welfare of the people that’s being addressed. And this community is one of the only ones in Michigan that’s going to have proper (water) pressure for all the residents, proper water for all the residents.”
When finished, the project will remedy the low water pressure that has plagued the village’s water main system and ensure that all of the fire hydrants are fully-functioning with acceptable water pressure.
In November 2015, a home on Sheron Street caught fire and was a complete loss. The fire department tried to connect the hoses to a nearby fire hydrant but could not use the hydrant because of low water pressure, according to a 2015 Lake Orion Review article.
Then fire chief Robert Smith said the fire department used tankers to dump water into a reserve tank and supply the firefighters. But because of the narrow streets on Central Drive, the tankers became congested.
‘The whole neighborhood has very narrow streets that make getting the large equipment in and out very difficult and once you get down to where the house was there is no easy way to turn around,” Smith said at the time.
About 80 percent of the low-performing hydrants will be addressed in phases 1 and 2.
“Then we had a little bit of a, and I’ll just be real honest, an issue where we were concerned with the safety of the overall water system. We already knew that, but it had gotten into the press and we were already working on it about a year-and-a-half to two years prior to that,” Van Portfliet said.
“As you can see today,” Van Portfliet said at the groundbreaking ceremony on Monday, “we have a number of council members here and we’re all going to participating in this project to make sure that the best buck is achieved for the residents as far as dollars spent.”
Financing for the water main replacement project
“It’s being financed by a $6 million loan, a bond, from the Drinking Water Revolving Fund through federal money administered through the state Dept. of Environmental Quality,” Young said. “It’s a 20-year bond at two percent interest…which is a great rate.”
Repayment funding comes from water rate increases to village water users. The village council approved a phased water rates increase in December 2016.
“There’s increases (in the village rates) the next couple of years to help continue to pay for the debt service, which is going to be around $500,000 per year in principle and interest on that bond issue,” Young said.
After phases 1 and 2 of the water main replacement program are completed the village begin planning for phases 3 and 4, Young said.
Engineering and construction
Eddie Zmich, project manager with Hubbell, Roth & Clark Engineering, Inc., said the first two phases of the project entail replacing the four-inch and six-inch water mains with eight-inch mains, the current standard.
The new pipes will be high density polyethylene in place of the iron pipe that was previously used.
“It should have a hundred-year life is what we’re hoping,” Zmich said. “Everyone is going to get new water services as well up to their curb box.”
“What this is going to do is provide better water pressure and volume, particularly to the streets west of M-24,” Zmich said, adding that some of the streets on peninsulas and islands, and some streets east of M-24 would benefit from the improvements.
Zmich said that a couple of years after the current project, phases 3 and 4 would address the remaining water mains on the east side of M-24.
Phases 3 and 4 have not been let out for bids, but would be less than $5 million, Zmich said.
HRC also will have fulltime observation during the project construction and updates will be provided to residents in the affected areas of construction.
Residents in the affected areas who have questions can contact village DPW Director Jeremy Richert at 248-693-8391 or Zmich at 248-454-6302.