To many people the word infrastructure means roads and bridges. For Vicksburg’s Department of Public Works (DPW), it means sewer lines, pumping stations and water pipes.
For over a century, these vital pieces of infrastructure in the village have been mapped in the brains of those who dig them up and repair the broken parts, according to Ken Schippers, acting Village manager and head of the DPW.
To get a handle on the entire underground infrastructure, the State of Michigan is holding out an incentive to cities and villages. They have set up a competitionfor grants that total two million to each entity to conduct a study, map the existing pipelines and thereby plan for future upgrades.
The grant money is being pro-offered with the usual carrot and stick according to village engineer, Michael Schwarz, of Pein & Neuhoff. The Village portion of the survey and planning phase is 90 percent funded by the State. What is generally conceded by those in the business, is that the state cannot come up with the major funding needed to improve infrastructure across the land, thus any remediation or upgrade costs will need to be taken on by the municipalities.
If Vicksburg should qualify for the grant, the State would pay $1,126,199 and the village $153,177, some of which could be offset by ‘in-kind’ contributions of the Village DPW staff and take three years to complete. “This would be a major rate study concerning capital improvements for the village,” Schwarz said. “The kicker is that the Village might have to adjust rates after the three years if they find they aren’t charging enough now,” he warned.
There are 121 miles of underground pipe, 98,000 feet of sewer lines and 380 manhole covers that we know of, according to Schippers.
“The survey would allow us to computer model the system and even include the pumps, capacity of the system and show the leads into each house. You will find stuff because much of the system is 20 years or older. Ultimately, Kalamazoo will have to require an asset management plan for any municipality that connects to their system,” Schwarz said.
There is no guarantee that the village would receive the grant as it will be competing with many others for the 450 million that has been set aside by the State for this program, Schwarz told the Village Council, but warned that if they didn’t get started on applying now, they might have to end up paying out of pocket in the future.