White Pigeon begins plans for Phase 2 of water project
WHITE PIGEON — White Pigeon officials approved the beginnings of the second phase of its water system project at its regular meeting Wednesday.
The White Pigeon Village Council approved $145,000 for the Jones Petrie Rafinski (JPR) planning and architectural firm to engage with a historic archeologic and environmental consultant to complete a study of resources in the community and also to complete a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)-compliant preliminary engineering report as part of Phase 2.
The cost for the consultant was estimated to be in the $30,000-$40,000 range, while the cost for the preliminary engineering report is estimated to be around $100,000.
The items approved Wednesday are part of a multi-million dollar project to update and improve the village’s water system, which Village Council President Tyler Royce said is “completely outdated.” So far, Royce said $1.9 million has been spent to replace a mile of water pipes from the east side of town near the village limits to the railroad tracks, as well as the service lines and cross connections along U.S. 12.
Josh Wyman and Ken Jones of JPR presented an update to the council on how the first phase of the project was coming along, as well as gave a preview as to what the second phase would entail. Wyman said as of last week, all of the new water main has been installed, and service lines have been replaced, with only “minor” punchlist items remaining on Phase 1, which has lasted for the least eight months.
In the last two months, Wyman said, JPR has been working a preliminary investigative report on the village’s water system as a whole, doing an inventory of its assets, and noted there were still some concerns about the system.
“We found that it’s pretty apparent there’s pressure issues in the southern portion of the village, the southeastern portion of the village, and the north-central portion of the village,” Wyman said. “With this next project, we’d like to address this by looping the east end water main from U.S. 12 south and down to Hotchin [Avenue], completing that loop on the east end with the help of a pressure residual.”
Wyman noted the Kalamazoo Street main, calling it the “most critical main in the village,” and said they want to increase the diameter of the pipe and replace it. Wyman said on the west side of the town on Miller Drive, they also want to loop that portion of the main to the downtown area to help with fire flow availability to the industrial area.
A study was also conducted on the water system, Wyman said, which found that the village’s third well, installed in 2001, “doesn’t have nearly as clean of water” than the other two upper wells. To fix that issue, Wyman said, JPR would want to replace the wells to a new aquifer.
Wyman estimated that the water main and service line projects would cost the village around $6.7 million. The well replacement, addition of well pumps, and repairs and updates to the water tower would cost an additional estimated $1.2 million.
Jones told the council that one of the things the village is mainly dealing with is “not only a size issue, but a material issue.” He said the pipes would be upgraded from four inches to six inches in diameter, and the material changed to PVC.
“It’ll be fairly durable and easy for the village staff to deal with if they ever need to do a repair, but also turning into a system that can be very reliable,” Jones said. “All of the oldest pipe in town is planned to be replaced in this project. There’s some 17,000 feet of pipe that would be placed overall.”
Jones added that the village is currently dealing with the water system at a “critical point in history.”
“You’ve been experiencing that over the last several years, and we don’t see how you have much choice here,” Jones said. “A capital works project, as painful as it is, is the only way to accomplish it.”
Because of the cost of the project, Jones said because of the village’s credit rating, a local bond issue or partnership with the county didn’t seem like the best idea. He said JPR has “begun a dialogue” with the USDA through their Rural Development Program, and said the village could qualify due to demographics and median household income, which puts the village into the “most attractive tier” when it comes to “long term, very low interest rates.”
“I wouldn’t want to promise you anything at this point in time until we really get a good look at what the impact of rates are going to be, but the USDA is going to be your best possible partnership for trying to end up with the lowest possible rate,” Jones said, adding that customers in the village would “see a significant impact” in the cost of their water.
Some of the funding, Jones said, could come from $1.2 million of federal Booker Grant money, which he said would help replace about half of the village’s service leads. He also mentioned the recently-passed infrastructure bill, saying the project would be “right in the sweetspot of what the infrastructure bill is going to want to try to accomplish.”
When asked by one of the councilmembers about replacing all of the water wells and not just Well 3, Jones said they thought about just replacing Well 3, they want to “improve the firm well capacity.”
Overall, Jones said JPR wants to get things started “as quick as possible.”
“We need to get started on the [Preliminary Engineering Report] so we can get that funding, because that’s your procurement qualifying tool,” Jones said. “We can’t move towards funding with the USDA without it.”
The approval of the $145,000 was approved unanimously by the council. Jones said he hopes to have a letter of obligation approved in fall of 2022.
In other business, Royce announced that a special meeting to review the results of a structural inspection report on the Tasty Nut Shop building downtown has been set for Tuesday, Nov. 30 at 7 p.m. at the Village Hall. Royce said the report has not been submitted yet, but will be presented to the council for the first time on that date.