The City of Coleman completed its much-needed $2.2 million sewer improvement project in the nick of time.
As Department of Public Works employees were in the process of shutting down the old equipment, it broke down.
“We got it done in the brink of time,” said Steve Miller, Coleman’s mayor. “When I toured the improvements, DPW staff said the old equipment was literally breaking up in their hands as they were closing some of the valves.
“It was like the last bus leaving town and you’re holding onto the bumper and dragging it down the road.”
Improvements were completed last month on the waste stabilization lagoon and construction of a new pump station. Lagoon improvements included reconstruction of eroded interior slopes, placement of geotextile fabric and armor stone to prevent future erosion, a road around the lagoons and a gravel access road to the site.
The project also included an emergency generator and replacing non-working valves, eroded transfer structures and force main from the pump station to each lagoon and transfer pipes between lagoons. The city also put in a green infrastructure bio-detention pond.
The improvements were paid through a $2 million Michigan Economic Development Corporation Infrastructure Capacity Enhancement grant, with a local match of $200,000. The grant was announced in October 2017 and the improvements addressed system deficiencies outlined in a Feb. 2, 2017 letter from Thomas McDowell, environmental engineer with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.
“This has been a tremendous improvement project for the city,” said Tammy Goffnett, the city’s clerk/treasurer. “We just couldn’t keep things going or have hope for economic growth without doing this project.
“And we could not have done it without the grant. We would have had to raise rates significantly in order to do this on our own.”
Because of the grant, the city did not have to raise user rates. The local match came from capital improvement funds the city had set aside.
“This is a big, big deal and we were super fortunate to get what we got, when we got it,” Miller added. “A lot of the infrastructure and equipment you don’t see until they don’t work. Many of the improvements were structures and equipment built back in the 1970s and were probably 25 years past their useful life.”
Consultant Fleis & VandenBrink of Midland helped the city apply for the grant and provided design and construction engineering for the improvements.
“It’s exciting to see this project come to fruition,” said Gary Bartow, project manager and F&V’s East Michigan Group manager. “We were equally happy to be able to assist the City in securing a significant grant to fund this infrastructure project because the cost of replacing and repairing what’s broken is staggering and in many cases, cost prohibitive for small communities.”
Bill Cozat, the city’s Public Services director who has worked for the city for 36 years, called the successful improvement project and grant “priceless.”
“This project is one of the reasons I’ve stuck around this long,” said Cozat, who is planning to retire soon. “I don’t know the right words to describe this project, except maybe awesome and getting the grant was priceless.”
“Completing this project is huge,” said Eric Cozat, a city DPW worker for 16 years and son of the DPS director. “This is a mega capital improvement that will last.
“It’s a major asset to the City for years to come.”
Bill Cozat said the city had been band-aiding parts of the system together in the last decade, but those band-aids were no longer on the market.
The biggest expense in the improvement project was the waste stabilization lagoon – reshaping the dikes and adding a new clay liner and rip-rap around it. Old pipes and valves associated with the system were also replaced.
“We were in dire need of a complete new system because every time we had to discharge or open or close valves, we had more repairs to make,” the younger Cozat said.
The old valves used to send influent to the stabilization ponds broke when the new system went on line.
The new lift station at the lagoon has two submersible pumps, a new generator, a valve and meter pit, and a new SCADA system that gathers and analyzes real time data and sounds an alarm when a pump fails.
“The new system that tells us how much we’re pumping in and how much we’re discharging on the other side during discharge season,” Eric Cozat noted. “It also tells us how much we’re pumping every day.”
The new pumps also have VFDs (variable frequency drives).
“We can actually crank them up or slow them down and do it remotely with our cell phones,” he added.
“The whole process is easier now,” the elder Cozat said. “This is a game changer.”