By Sue Moore
The first official steps were taken by the Vicksburg Village Council toward a $13.6-million bond issue to replace aging sanitary sewers, storm sewers and water lines. The money is being requested as a low-interest loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Program.
The bonds would be repaid from sewer and water bills in the village over a 40-year period. Major construction is expected to take place from July through September, 2020.
The council also voted to apply for a $250,000 grant funded through a Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) Economic Development Category B Program. Mike Swartz of Prein & Newhof, the village’s engineering firm, explained that this was a new program to help with resurfacing local roads. The money is being asked for reconstruction of Mill, Washington, Pearl and Spruce streets in conjunction with the proposed sewer and water line projects.
Many meetings have taken place with utility companies who might have an interest in the project to determine if they might want to coordinate with the big dig in the village. Merchants in downtown stores also have been consulted since Main and Prairie streets will be impassable during these three critical months.
In addition to this major construction project, the village is also accepting $250,000 from the Kalamazoo Area Transportation System (KATS) to begin construction on an extension of the village trail. The village would be required to match the amount with about $50,000 . The extension would go from TU Avenue north to the Schoolcraft township line. Eventually the trail would connect with Portage and Kalamazoo County trails that stretch from South Haven to Galesburg and Battle Creek. The 1.3-mile village trail extends from North Street in the village to TU Avenue.
Matching funds for the trail will come from the Downtown Development (DDA) Vision Campaign conducted in 2015-2016.
Village Manager Jim Mallery explained to the council members that sewer and water rates had not been raised since 2003-04, and thus haven’t kept up with the costs of maintaining the system. The council also approved $19,000 for an alarm system for the lift station pumps that would help sound alerts if there is a critical failure in one of the seven locations.
A contract from ITRight for an information technology upgrade was also approved at $5,500. Last year the village spent $14,800 for IT services, Mallery told the council. The three-year contract represents a nice savings, he said. One goal of these improvements is to provide on-line live streaming of village council meetings.
With all of these decisions that directly affect the work of the Department of Public Works employees, Mallery took time to praise the four members of the staff who attended the meeting. “The way they keep the streets and sidewalks up is really special. They made critical repairs to the village plow trucks when the big winter storms blew in last January. Their teamwork and willingness to get the job done is exemplary,” Mallery said.
Dirk VanKrimpen, a resident on the east side of Sunset Lake, voiced concern about the high lake level. He believes the lake is being contaminated by the homes on the west side of the channel going upstream to Gourdneck Lake that do not have village sewers. He believes boards controlling the lake level need to be lowered so more water will flow through Portage Creek.