The Fife Lake Area Utility Authority (FLAUA) held a ground-breaking ceremony Friday for its $6.5 million wastewater system improvement project.
Twenty-five people, including State Rep. Larry Inman and State Sen. Wayne Schmidt, attended the 30-minute ceremony at the treatment plant. Both Inman and Schmidt praised the relentless efforts of the FLAUA board and said the improvements will be a big plus for the community.
“This is really a great project for this area,” said Inman. “This will be a state-of-the-art facility and probably a model for other communities around the nation.”
“We you look at how we do things, this is how we do it,” said Schmidt, “a cooperative spirit and that we care enough about the environment that we make sure that our wastewater plants are doing the best that they can.
“Because we know what makes northern Michigan go. It’s the quality of our life and the quality of our natural resources. So hats off to the Fife Lake Authority and the USDA for making these upgrades.”
The FLAUA board signed construction contracts and finalized funding on June 2 for the project with the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development Program. The project includes a 44 percent grant of $2.857 million, the largest grant ever approved out of the Traverse City Service Center, and a $3.655 million loan at a historic low interest rate of 1.75 percent.
FLAUA board members. trustees Leigh Ann Gifford and Jonathon Rose, Secretary Lori Ann Rognlie, Vice-President Lisa Leedy and President William Fisk attended the event emceed by Leedy, who is also the Village of Fife Lake President and Chairman of the FLAUA Steering Committee. Board treasurer Jodi Velez, Linda Forwerck, Tom Gray and Ron Broering were absent.
Plant operator and compliance officer Ray Ravary and part-time sewer employees Ray Garchaw and Jamie Stocking were also introduced.
“This system was put in back in 1979 with the intent that it was going to serve the people of Fife Lake forever,” Fisk said. “The intent was to pay off the bond that was a 30-year note and that was what they were geared for.”
Fisk said FLAUA was notified five years ago by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) that the liners in the lagoon system needed to be changed.
“In and of itself, it’s daunting,” Fisk noted. “It’s about $40,000 to $60,000.
“After we found out that, we were then told ‘no, we want a redesign and it’s hundreds of thousands of dollars.’”
Fisk said the board was “scrambling” the last two years to get the funds and make this project work.
“We got an unprecedented $2.8 million grant,” Fisk said, citing the effort of engineering firm Fleis & VandenBrink to help secure the USDA money. “They went to bat for us and demonstrated that we really needed the money, the expertise to improve the system and safeguard the water for our children and our children’s children.”
Leedy also thanked FLAUA attorney Tom Grier, the MDEQ and USDA Rural Development, particularly Traverse City Program Director Blake Smith for their efforts in pushing the project through.
“Our engineers are rock stars, as we have them to thank for much of the heavy lifting. This is proof that positive outcomes can happen when we all pitch in and work together,” Leedy added.
John DeVol, PE and Traverse City office manager for F&V, also spoke, praising the Fife Lake community effort.
“There were a lot of dedicated people involved in success of this project,” DeVol said. “And I want to thank off all you.
“I especially want to thank the FLAUA board and the steering committee. It’s been a long process.”
The preliminary engineering study and funding application was paid through a Stormwater, Asset Management, and Wastewater (SAW) grant from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.
Improvements included in this project are:
• Replacing four pump stations
• Rehabilitating seven pumping stations
• Installing a new system wide alarm and monitoring system on all of the pump stations
• Purchasing two new emergency backup generators
• Replacing liners in the aerated lagoons
• Reconstructing the irrigation pump station that discharges treated water to the irrigation fields
• Upgrading the wastewater treatment building to provide secure indoor storage
• Installing a new aeration system to improve the quality of the treated water and reduce energy
• Installing new flow monitoring equipment.
In addition to Fleis & VandenBrink, contractors for the project are Central Michigan Contracting, of Farwell, Franklin Holwerda Company, of Wyoming, and Grand Traverse Construction, of Traverse City.