By Sue Moore
There’s been a lot of talk but no action over the years about a sewer system in Schoolcraft. That may be changing.
Alan Smaka, engineer from Portage-based Wightman Associates, filled in Schoolcraft village council members about an increasing possibility for increased funding through a federal loan/grant application.An application for the grant, funding a sewer system around Pickerel, Indian, Sugarloaf and Barton Lakes as well as the village, will be filed by the South County Sewer and Water Authority as early as this month. The area covered by the application can be scaled back at a later point if needed.
The Authority filed a pre-application with the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a grant back in 2015 when in-depth discussions were taking place for the lakes and the village. Since then, Smaka said, that USDA’s funding has been tripled at the Federal level, an allocation which passes through to the states. That means that Michigan’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development also receives more money for projects that are slated for communities of 10,000 or less which can’t afford large public works projects on their own.
Smaka was at the meeting to explain this change and inform the group that the Authority had decided to go ahead and file the application for funding. He indicated that the Authority would know within 30 to 60 days through a letter of eligibility for the project. The next step would be a letter from the state agriculture department providing a statement of condition and obligation of funds. This would lock in the bond rate.
The chances of assistance are better this time for several reasons, Smaka said. Because of the income levels of the population to be included in the project, this area is eligible for a loan/grant of up to 45 percent of the total cost of the project. The application is being pared back to include just the lakes areas that want the sewer system and the village of Schoolcraft. It doesn’t include the village of Vicksburg which has decided to go on its own.
Smaka said they will ask for funding for the US 131 corridor and the entire village of Schoolcraft which would be the bigger project. However, it could be cut back to a smaller project if the entire village isn’t included and if just the US 131 corridor decides to go ahead. Barton Lake residents will again get a chance to approve or disapprove.
The Schoolcraft village council was not asked to take any action at the meeting.
While the Authority prepares the application, Smaka will be planning a public participation plan. This would include new costs with various ranges depending upon who actually wants to be included as a participant as well as more knowledge of USDA’s funding terms and potential for grants. The decision will come back to the Council as to who should be included in the sewer project, Smaka said.