By Rob Peterson
Schoolcraft Village engaged engineering firm Prein & Newhoff to provide an assessment of the village’s infrastructure, including the cost of a sewer system.
The council approved two studies to be completed by the company this year. The first, a comprehensive capital improvement plan, will include study of the village streets, the existing water system, and the sewer system. This study will cost $30,000.
The second study is to prepare for money that could be available through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, a low interest loan program to help communities provide safe drinking water. This study is required for the village to apply to the loan program, which has an application deadline of July 1. The cost of this study is $20,000.
The two studies are intended to help the village prepare for any loans or grants that may be made available, particularly through the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, passed in late 2021.
The work will build on studies that have been completed in recent years, including a Water Asset Management Plan. That plan only looked at the water mains, however. New state legislation requires the village to replace all lead service lines by 2041.
Other recent studies include a Road Asset Management Plan, which concluded that the majority of village streets require a complete reconstruction; and a South County Sewer and Water Authority study, which identified potential methods of delivering sewer service to the village.
The work by Prein & Newhoff will only identify the costs associated with the proposed work; a separate study by public finance firm Baker Tilley Municipal Advisors will outline how the village could pay for the work.
Council members asked Tom Wheat of Prein & Newhoff whether he expects there to be grants available for any of these infrastructure plans. Wheat said it’s unlikely that they will find grants, considering Schoolcraft’s status as a moderate-income community, but that “the state may have partially forgivable loans for some projects; it is more likely that grant money will be available for water systems than sewer.”
“Lead service line replacement is a huge obligation for communities,” said Wheat, stating that this is the highest priority infrastructure item. “You have to go after lead service pipes, so everything follows that task.”
Wheat went on to advise the council to look at this as a comprehensive project. Installing new water mains, for example, will require reconstruction of the roads. Installing a sewer main at the same time might make sense.
The council was careful to say that these are just studies. “I want people to be aware that we are developing plans, not committing to sewer,” said council president Keith Gunnett.
“This is an iterative process,” shared Wheat. “We determine what it will cost, then we remove the lower priority items, and run the cost analysis again. We keep doing this until the village is ready to move forward.”
By Rob Peterson