Archived Story

$500,000 grant would address three needs

Published 8:47am Tuesday, October 27, 2009

By JOHN EBY
Dowagiac Daily News

A half-million-dollar grant the city first expressed interest in May 26 is a step closer to reality after holding a public hearing before Dowagiac City Council Monday night.

Officially known as an ICE grant, an acronym for Infrastructure Capacity Enhancement, the city’s application through the Michigan Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program seeks $340,000, which with Dowagiac’s $160,000 (32 percent) match, will assist in making approximately $500,000 in infrastructure improvements in three key areas:

• Patched Uneta Street, by the $9.5 million Atrium Centers skilled nursing facility which breaks ground at 11 a.m. Friday and represents 100 new jobs. The grant would fund $67,830 of an estimated $99,750 cost of utility and street improvements. Dowagiac Nursing Home closed in the summer of 2007. Reopening such a facility complements short-term triage care at Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital.

• Pothole-pocked Solomon Avenue, which runs between Patrick Hamilton Elementary School and Chris Taylor-Alumni Field, also needs utility and street improvements. The grant would likewise fund $67,830 of a $99,750 project.

• Wolf Street, the rutted road which leads past the youth soccer fields at Northwest Park to the new fire station dedicated Oct. 10. The most expensive of the three projects, the grant would cover $204,340 of the $300,500 undertaking. A lift station accounts for $170,000 of the $300,500.

City Engineer Christopher J. Bolt, director of the Department of Public Services (DPS), showed a PowerPoint presentation prepared in July to the council about the three-pronged grant application.

“For purposes of the application,” Bolt explained, “we have to tie them together with one main theme, and that is fire protection in our community. They won’t award you a grant if you’re spread all over unless there’s a common element that threads them together.”
“We’re proposing under Uneta to upgrade the sanitary sewer with a modern service. Both Uneta and Colby streets’ water mains dead-end. A fire demand on either end, your ability to draw to put out the fire is greatly reduced. We propose to put in a loop that connects the two dead ends that would allow a draw from multiple directions. Actually, it also improves the quality of the drinking water for the facility.”

Solomon Avenue, the “gateway” to the reconfigured Pat Ham, strikes Bolt as a “back-door approach. From a safety perspective, it bothered me from the first time I saw it. Crews have been there repeatedly patching potholes. We can’t seem to keep up with it.” The front of the school faced Spruce Street historically.

“There is no water main and sewer loop existing,” Bolt said, though “there is a sanitary sewer, however, it is in need of upgrades and replacement, and it’s only six-inch line. We’ll be replacing the sewer and also installing – again, the same idea with the water main loop – there is no fire protection on that side of the school. We’d be improving fire flow as well as water service to the facility. The advantage when you do this is that you get to rebuild the street on top of it. That’s a hidden benefit to upgrading the utilities in a program like this.”
Bolt said on Wolf Street, “We’re familiar with drainage problems, the gravel surface and hodge-podge of potholes. Not exactly a gateway for our new facility.”

There is a lift station near the end of the APEX fence going toward ICG’s shuttered plant.
“It’s a major headache for us,” Bolt said. “It needs to be replaced. It serves that entire region in this area of the community. Our proposal is to install a new lift station a little bit deeper” and on the south side about halfway to the fire station, “and eliminate the one on N. Paul. Also, eliminate a pumping station just outside of the fire station. Turning two lift stations into one means less maintenance in perpetuity. We’ll reconstruct Wolf Street with curb and gutter and nice parking for the soccer fields. This does not involve any water work. The water system as it stands today is in good operating condition, but fire protection comes into play because the fire station is a regional facility.”

In all three instances, “Grant funding would leverage our limited capital funds we have in our budget,” Bolt said.

“With regard to Solomon Avenue, in addition to fire protection and water service improvements, 38 percent of the students at Patrick Hamilton are of an ethnicity other than white. And 60 percent are enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program. A project like this serves beyond the city limits. This will serve a wide variety of people from all economic classes.”

Brochure updated
Dogwood Fine Arts Festival updated its Sculptures in the City brochure with an insert locating Dawn Sentinels (7), Wind Song (8) and Cheetahs on the Run (9, 10 and 11).
City Manager Kevin Anderson read an e-mail he received Monday from an Amtrak passenger who wondered what the significance of Rosetta’s big cats near the depot was – perhaps the school mascot?

Councilman Bob Schuur gave kudos to Beckwith Theatre for its “well done” Riverside Cemetery historical walk. “I went a second time because I thought the first time was so good. I hope they do it again.”

Blue Water 35th
Ron Leatz, who helped Vickie Phillipson organize Wednesday’s ceremony on short notice for the 35th anniversary of Amtrak’s Blue Water shore-to-shore passenger rail line, Monday attended the dedication of New Buffalo’s new station.

“There were nine stations, from Port Huron to Niles,” Leatz related.

“The biggest turnout and, they thought, the most organized celebration at the station, was Dowagiac, so everyone can give yourself a hand. It worked out real well.”

“With the New Buffalo station,” Leatz said, “Four Winds (Casino Resort of the Dowagiac-based Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians) has a bus to take you to the casino and bring you back. You can go to the casino and not have to get into a vehicle except for Amtrak and the bus.”

“Dowagiac has worked closely for 20 years with MDOT (Michigan Department of Transportation) to make certain we’re well on their radar screen when it comes to high-speed rail as it applies to small towns. The fact Tim Hoeffner was here is no accident,” Mayor Donald Lyons commented. “That was a nice way to say, ‘Hey, we’re still here and still interested.’ ”

Hoeffner attended ceremonies at four stops – Dowagiac, Lansing, Kalamazoo and Port Huron.

Howard Hall complimented the city for the Blue Water ceremony.

His was the last name drawn for a tote bag.

Hall also praised Beckwith Theatre’s “Forever Plaid” last weekend as “absolutely amazing. It was, I think, the best show I’ve ever seen at Beckwith Theatre.

“I want to wish Mr. Comstock good luck. We’ve had our disagreements in the past, but it’s sort of sad to see you go.”

Hall thanked the entire council for being more open – particularly the back-and-forth discussion at the Oct. 12 meeting and packet postings on the Internet.

“A lot of people around town are talking about that,” Hall said. “The discussion at the last council meeting was fantastic. It didn’t look like it was rubber-stamped when everyone came in.

“I don’t know if a thank-you from me is going to do any good,” Hall laughed, “but I think you guys are being a lot more open.”

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