By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
LINCOLN PARK – Department of Public Works Director John Kozuh and Hennessey Engineer John Hollingsworth spoke about the challenges aging infrastructure and staffing shortages pose during the April 18 City Council meeting.
Kozuh said that since Jan. 1, more than 204 locations on city streets have been cold patched by the DPS road crew, and the water department has responded to 56 water main breaks.
He said, of his 28 employees – 22 full-time, and six part-time – three employees are off due to work-related injuries, three are off due to non-work-related injuries, and one employee is on military leave. Three of those employees are in the water division, whose employees are helping out the sewer department as well.
Kozuh said that in the first quarter, four rain events initiated bypass pumping three times, and caused water to back up in 21 basements, none of which he believes are the fault of the city.
He said 28 pumps at pump stations have had to be repaired during the first quarter as well.
“Either they are mechanical failures, or they are inundated with rags and towels,” he said. “Now that they’ve got ‘flushable’ towelettes, those are a menace to pumps.
“Three years ago, we never had this issue, other than maybe once a year, and now we almost have to do some of these pump locations daily.”
Kozuh said a part-time employee who opens and closes Council Point Park confirmed that young people are congregating there between 3 and 4 p.m., and that a graffiti problem is becoming “overwhelming.”
“He’s done a lot of painting, a lot of graffiti removal,” Kozuh said.
Kozuh said that, along with the high number of water main breaks, the price of pipes and of repair clamps have gone up.
He said the backfill material that they use to fill watermain break locations has to be monitored for settlement after the initial fill, and they must repetitively cold patch those locations.
Kozuh said the city also has a lot of failing catch basins.
He said most of the city’s water mains run underneath its roadways, so when a water main repair is needed, they try to go back during the warmer months and repair the concrete roadway.
Kozuh said he had crews doing overtime one weekend to fill potholes, but, generally, his employees decline weekend overtime opportunities.
Hollingsworth said that on a positive note, the city received a grant from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy for service lead location for the mandated water service lead line lead pipe replacement.
“That grant is to locate the water services and then determine how many lead service leads are in the system,” he said. “We did receive a grant from EGLE for $533,000 to do that, so, that’s a good thing, because some communities did not receive any grants.”
Hollingsworth said the service line locations needing replacement will be random – some pipes will be made of lead, and some will not.
Gaining that information will help develop the city’s asset management plan, to help with the water system, he said.
“We will be able to use some of that money to locate valves and things like that, to get them into our GIS system,” he said. “So, that will be a positive down the road and a way to at least help our inventory of the water system and how we can make some improvements.”
GIS is a geographic information system mapping technology which creates, manages, analyzes and maps data.
Hollingsworth said they are also working on the Emmons and Lincoln Pump Station, and the design is about 50 percent completed, with a 60 percent completion meeting scheduled for May.
He said he is pleased that they are also able to focus on safety issues in confined spaces with air quality issues.
“We are putting in a lot of new safety equipment for areas where you are inside the pump station and they are on different levels, so if anyone goes into the pump station and loses consciousness, there will be a way to retrieve them and get them out in a rapid manner,” he said.
Hollingsworth said they will indicate on the pump station buildings safety features that will tell the Department of Public Services employees if there are any gases in the pump station, and will advise them to not enter, to use the appropriate breathing apparatus or to contact fire department personnel for assistance.
He said Hennessey has sent the final application plans in to the State Revolving Fund, for EGLE, for the city’s sewer lining project, for both sectional and full-length liners.
Hollingsworth said the sewer lining loan would allow them to further investigate the sewer system, by cleaning sections and going in with a camera to see the interior of select pipes and rate their condition.
“Down the road, where we have issues, we will probably come back and look to do another (State Revolving Fund) loan,” he said.
Hollingsworth said leak detection is another city project for which Hennessey has developed a project plan.
“We are trying to locate anywhere that we have water leaks that need to be repaired,” he said. “We will also enter that information into a (geographic information) system, and that way we will be able to log in when the water mains were installed, so we will know the ages, and what type of condition the valves are in, and that will help John (Kozuh) with a maintenance program, so he’ll know what valves need to be repaired or replaced, and that will help us with our water main projects.”
Hollingsworth said it will also help them know how to shut down the water main systems more efficiently when needed.
He said Hennessey Engineers will be going out for bid for work on the retention basins, which will utilize American Rescue Plan Act money.
Hollingsworth said there are pressure relief valves that have failed on the retention basins, so they will be replaced as part of the project.
“We will be cleaning the cells out, and we have already done cell one completely,” he said. “We have done the concrete restoration; we did cell three – the floors; and now we will finish the walls in cell three, and the concrete restoration in cell two.”
Retention basins, also known as storm water management ponds, are used to manage storm runoff and to protect against flooding, while retention cells are shallow storm basins that capture and treat runoff.
It was noted that concrete prices for road repairs would likely increase 5 to 10 percent from last year, and availability was stable.
Hollingsworth noted that they might experience a price increase in the sewer line pipe work, but because it is covered by a State Revolving Fund loan, the cost will be deferred over a 20-year period and won’t hit the city budget immediately.