City of Grayling receives over $1.5 million to upgrade sewer system
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
The City of Grayling was awarded a grant of more than $1.5 million, which will be used to replace an aging sewer main that services homes and businesses in nearly the entire community.
Grayling was among 14 communities around Michigan which were awarded $23.2 million in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Infrastructure Capacity Enhancement (ICE) grants. Communities will use funds to upgrade existing water and sewer systems along with making improvements to wastewater treatment plants and public roads.
The funds come from the Michigan Strategic Fund, with the administrative support of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).
“As with most communities, infrastructure is a never-ending battle. Everything was installed with no plan for repair or replacement, which has left most municipalities scrambling,” said Erich Podjaske, the zoning director for the City of Grayling “With MEDC’s help through programs like the Infrastructure Capacity Enhancement grant, communities can get funding for large projects while being able to focus budgets on smaller issues before they become large problems.”
The current sewer main was installed in the 1970s.
“They have a 50-year life span and we were coming right up to that 50 years,” Podjaske said.
Podjaske noted that there are no backup sewer mains, in case the current one broke or backed up. The sewer main services all homes and businesses within the city limits with the exception of businesses located in the Grayling Industrial Park.
“If that main line went down, everybody would be in trouble because there was no back up,” Podjaske said. “Trying to fix that line, that would have been just a nightmare. That’s why this was a high-priority to get this fixed.”
More importantly, the sewer main runs under the AuSable River.
“The biggest thing for me was making sure the city was safe. With this going right under the AuSable River, it’s a blue-ribbon trout stream, and any sewage back up going into that would just be nightmare for our industry focused on tourism,” Podjaske said. “That was a big driver around this, making sure we did not have any type of catastrophic failure because everything runs through that pipe.”
The new sewer main will be larger, allowing for more capacity for multi-unit housing developments, generating new businesses and redeveloping the downtown business district.
“As we successfully implement projects like this, it makes the next sales pitch even easier,” said Dan Leonard, a community assistance specialist for MEDC.
Grants between $500,000 and $2 million were awarded to eligible communities on a competitive basis.
Grayling will receive $1.73 million in funds, including a $1.56 million CDBG and $170,000 in local matching funds.
Grayling City Manager Doug Baum credited Podjaske, Russell Strohpaul, Jr., the director of the city’s department of public works, and Kyle Bond, the superintendent of the department of public works, for hands-on work in obtaining the grant. He also noted the assistance form Northeast Michigan Council of Governments is successfully garnering the grant funds.
“As a community, we’re working hard to work together to make this stuff happen,” Baum said.
Rowe Engineering, which has an office in Grayling, is the engineering firm for the project. That benefited the community in obtaining the grant since they are local.
The sewer main runs from Penrod’s AuSable Canoe and Kayak out to the city’s sewage treatment facility located near the Grayling Industrial Park.
Work to replace the sewer main is expected to take place next year.
“You won’t see a lot of work being done because it will be directionally bored underground,” Podjaske said.
The Village of Roscommon will use a $2 million CDBG award along with $292,500 in local matching funds to rebuild the sanitary sewer gravity main, make wastewater lift station upgrades, and replace the water main.
“The Village of Roscommon is always working hard to try and secure funding to make vital improvements for the betterment of the community,” said Village Manager John Rosczyk. “Thanks to the MEDC ICE grant, we are able to replace and improve some of our aging, high-priority water and wastewater infrastructure.”
State Rep. Daire Rendon, R-Lake City, noted that the grants are examples of how funding is being shifted from urban areas to northern Michigan. She said that will help create housing and draw in new employers.
“There is a lot of potential here, but you have got to have the infrastructure and it’s critical that we have this kind of support from Lansing,” Rendon said. “It’s a shining star here in the north, and hopefully we can keep them coming.”