Constantine aims to renovate sanitary sewer system plant

CONSTANTINE – The Constantine village council adopted a resolution to begin a series of steps to receive funds from USDA World Development (WD) to renovate its existing sanitary sewer system plant at a Monday, May 6 council meeting. The estimated cost is approximately $7,900,000.
Discussion centered on WD issuing bonds, one possibility to fund a low-interest rate loan for 40 years to upgrade the Constantine plant. Attending the council meeting were Liz Girgen and Brad Lyons, engineers at Fleis & VandenBrink in Kalamazoo, and village sewer attorney Roger A. Swets of Dickinson Wright PLLC, who showed a PowerPoint outlining the reasons to move forward on the upgrade to the Constantine plant, and answered questions.
Girgen discussed three options: the pros and cons of the village staying with Three Rivers Wastewater Treatment Plant (TRWTP) to treat their sewage, joining forces with Michigan Milk Producers Association (MMPA) to build a new plant, and the village renovating its existing plant.
She indicated that the negotiations with MMPA had gone on for a long time, and they did not wish to participate in renovating the Constantine plant, intending instead to build their own sewer system on property that they own on east Water Street.
Village Manager/Police Chief Mark Honeysett told the village that MMPA was “still happy with the situation, and agreed to pay substantially more taxes caused by their recent multi-million dollar improvements.”
Swets said it benefited the village not to go into a joint venture with MMPA;.
“Don’t take a dim view of MMPA opting out. This frees up the village to have a less risky venture treating large volumes of MMPA waste,” he said. “Another point: MMPA can’t get grants and we can.”
Girgen said over the last three years there has been a 100 percent increase in the amount that Constantine pays to ship its wastewater to the TRWTP.
“The USDA offers a long-term loan and there is an opportunity for grant funding. The old plant has not been used in 20 years, but we toured it several times, and feel it is usable. The buildings and concrete surfaces are still there. A lot of the electrical and mechanical needs to be replaced, but utilities are in decent shape, and the brick is good in the control building. Reusing it keeps expenses down for the village,” she said.
Lyons said, “A 100 percent increase in three years is just the nature of the growth of the flow in the village, not bad of Three Rivers. You have wet seasons, other variables. Rates change. Conditions change. It was just time to re-evaluate.”
 Honeysett added that the TRWTP informed him to expect their rates to rise between three and five percent annually, “so our costs would routinely go up.”
Council president Gary Mathers said the village’s wastewater treatment contract with Three Rivers expired in 2016.
“We want to be self-sufficient. This is ‘ours.’ We’re going to be treating our own waste. It’s the best of all worlds, and we can go for a lucrative-looking grant.”
Honeysett said that the entire pipeline and pumping stations going to TRWTP belong to the village.
“It’s all ours all the way to Three Rivers. We have several options. We can cap the force main, leave it in place, or reverse the flow, make arrangements accordingly, or ask Three Rivers if they wish to take over/purchase our system/force main and use it to send sewage to their Three Rivers plant,” he said.
“The old plant started to need a lot of repairs, plus it was difficult to keep operators at the plant. The then-council thought it would be cheaper to send sewage to Three Rivers, but then they had to add a booster station to pump to Three Rivers, and that added over a million to the cost. Back then the council thought it was going to be more efficient. I think they did the wrong thing, but for the right reason. The new upgraded system will be easier to operate. We can hire an operator or engage a company to run the plant,” Honeysett said.
Honeysett asked how long before the newly renovated plant would be running, stating that paying TRWTP along with a WD loan could create financial hardship.
Lyons said he estimated that the Constantine plant would be running in 30-36 months, if all conditions are favorable.
“It will be at least 18 months or two summers before construction begins. We go to Rural Development to submit an application, which could take three months because the federal government needs to review it. Hopefully by the end of the summer we will have a USDA commitment letter, then at the same time go to the state for a discharge permit. It possibly will take until winter of this coming year. It would be great to be able to take bids this next spring on this project. At the end of 2022, we hope to have your treatment facility finished,” he said.
Swets added that one benefit of World Development was you “get money only as you need it.”
“You may be in a in bit of a financial pinch. You will have significant costs over the next 12 months, particularly for engineering. It will put some pressure on the village, but you need to spend money before your get your bonds (loan) coming in,” he said..
Swets also advised the council to consider asking for a $9,000,000 loan.
“While $7,900,000 is a good target number, you may want to give yourself enough cushion for the unforeseen. Hopefully you won’t need it,” he said.
Mathers commended the council for adopting the resolution to renovate the old plant, at the May 6 council meeting.
“You’ve done very well looking at all the options, with the best legal and engineering advice available.”
Honeysett said “This has been number one on the council’s list of priorities, and we finally see a light at the end of the tunnel. The council deserves a lot of credit.”
In other business
•Honeysett announced the village 2019 spring clean-up will be held from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on Saturday, May 18, and  9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, May 10. Items must be delivered to dumpsters at the DPW garage (under the water tower). Conditions that apply include: No single item heavier than two men can reasonably carry; no hazardous waste such as auto batteries, liquid paint, insecticide, etc.; no building materials such as lumber, drywall, plywood, shingles, etc.; no appliances that contain or contained Freon; no water heaters; no tires, and no yard waste (leaves or grass clippings). Yard waste may be deposited at a site at the DPW. ID’s will be checked to make sure people leaving items are village residents.
•The council granted a request by the high school to temporarily close Canaris Street between Johnson and West Lafayette from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, May 28, and from 8 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, June 1.
“Constantine High School has been selected by the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) as a host site for men’s baseball and women’s softball district tournaments this year,” The school has not hosted baseball or softball tournaments in quite a few years, so we’re excited for the opportunity. On May 28 there will be one baseball game at the Canaris Street field that will begin at 5 p.m. A softball game will be played at the same time at the softball field located east of the Riverside Elementary School parking lot on west 6th Street. On June 1 there are three baseball games and three softball games and again, those games are scheduled for the same times: 10 a.m., noon, and 2 p.m. MHSAA requires that the hosting venue for tournaments charge admission for those tournaments. In order to accomplish that, the school must restrict access to the parking lots at both fields,” Honeysett said.
He said an increase in vehicular and pedestrian traffic was expected, and the village would provide cones and barricades to restrict traffic, and that he hoped to provide reserve police officers.
•The council passed a resolution to change the name of Well Field Park to Fibre Converters Park.
“The village purchased the property during the 1970s to install wells. A few years later the Constantine Little League (CLL) installed their complex there, obviously in agreement with the village. We couldn’t locate the agreement between the village and Little League outlining what they can do, but we can draft a new one. It’s the village park to do with as they please. Little League is there and as they agree to maintain it, it’s good for the village as well,” Honeysett said.
“Little League had a lot of years of struggling to do improvements. We want our kids to be proud to play in that field. The Three Rivers sports complex is going in and it’ll take some of our kids if we don’t have what they need here. When a company steps up to help, kids have a future here,” trustee Cathy Piper said.
The major sponsorship/donation by Fibre Converters was announced by CLL president Nick Godfrey on April 27, the opening day of Little League season. Jim Stuck, chairman of the board at Fibre Converters and his wife Donna attended the event.
•Sharon and Mark Voege invited the council to the annual BBQ fundraiser at the Gov. John S. Barry Museum, located at 310 N. Washington St. It will be held from 11a.m. to 2 p.m. on May 27, in honor of Memorial Day. There will be free tours.
Angie Birdsall is a freelance writer who primarily covers Constantine.

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