Cassopolis streetscape project about to begin

CASSOPOLIS — After approximately five years of hard work and some tough decisions, the village of Cassopolis is only a few weeks from seeing their dreams come true.

Through the efforts of many, including community members, the village council, Michigan State University and the Sustainable Built Environment, work will to begin in two to three weeks on the village’s streetscape project, according to Village Manager Emilie Sarratore.

Last week, the Michigan Strategic Fund announced that the village would receive a Community Development Block Grant for its streetscape project for $2.8 million. That money, as well as the funds that the village put away for the project, will total nearly $6 million.

Since last year, the village has secured several grants to help fund the project. To come up with its share of the funding, council members worked hard to save the village’s financial resources over the past five years.

“It has been a pretty good year for us,” Sarratore said. “We got about $4.5 million in grants. It has been pretty successful. I count those $2.8 million in with last year because we knew we were going to get it. The final approval wasn’t until last week.”

The streetscape project will include State Street, Broadway, part of Disbrow and Jefferson Street.

“It includes water and sewer upgrades, lane reduction for traffic calming, adding bike lanes, all new sidewalks and lights,” Sarratore said. “It is going to be beautiful. We took a lot of the stuff from Imagine Cass and the public engagement that we had, the work with the EDC [Michigan Economic Development Corporation], the county and Michigan State [University], and really expounded on that and ran with it. This is the result of all that hard work and what the community said it wanted to see.”

Village residents will also see pedestrian crosswalks, new landscaping, public seating and free WiFi.

Sarratore said the collaboration on this project has been “awesome.”

“I think that all the community involvement that went into this really set us up for success,” she said. “To be able to move forward, to be able to get these grant dollars, to be able to now work with the MEDC, all of those are great opportunities for the village and community. I honestly could not be more excited about what is coming.”

As with the construction of on other projects, including the new municipal complex, the COVID-19 outbreak has slowed the project a bit.

“It slowed us down a little bit only because we were waiting for the final grant agreement to be approved by the Michigan Strategic board,” Sarratore said. “We are about four to six weeks behind what we anticipated. That is because there is critical infrastructure in this project. We knew it was going to be able to move along. Because of COVID, some of the MEDC board meetings got shuffled and canceled.”

Selge Construction of Niles submitted the winning bid for the contract for the project.

“We are pretty excited to have someone local working with us on this project,” Sarratore said. “They always were awarded the bid for the beach project as well. They will be doing both, which is great.”

With all the projects going on at the same time, Sarratore is hopeful that village leadership can make it as painless as possible for residents.

“It will be a little tricky because there is going to be a lot of construction in the village all summer long,” she said. “We are going to do our best to make it as easy as possible on everyone, but with progress comes a little pain sometimes.”

Sarratore said that everything is substantially supposed to be completed by the end of the year.