City Council Recap: Bond Refinancing, Pump Station Improvements

Lowell City Council meet for 47 minutes on Monday night for their first regular meeting of November. All councilmembers were present, and the agenda contained seven pieces of new and old business.

City Hall Bond Refinancing Saves $267,000

The first piece of old business on the agenda was to refinance the bond used to pay for the construction of City Hall. There are 10 years remaining on the bond, and low interest rates means the city will save $267,000 over the next decade.

“We had a better than anticipated interest rate when we went out to bid last week,” said City Manager Mike Burns. The new interest rate on the bond is 1.62%.

The motion to approve the refinance passed unanimously.

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Line Shack Sale Approved

In mid-October, Lowell City Council held a special session to hear proposals from six bidders who wanted to purchase the former Lowell Light & Power line shack on Riverside Drive. At that session, the council selected BGR Investments as the winning bid.

The company proposes to replace the existing building with a new structure that will include five residential units, covered parking and a space that could be used for retail. Their winning bid was $100,000.

City Attorney Jessica Wood noted that the sale would not be complete until a separate development agreement is signed between the city and developer.

Councilmembers unanimously approved the sale contingent on that happening.

Northwest Pump Station Improvements

Earlier in the year, the city received an administrative consent order from the state requiring increased capacity at the northwest pump station on Gee Dr. While the state has given the city until next November to make the upgrade, Dan Czarnecki, director of the Department of Public Works, says the city can’t wait that long to take action.

“We need to get this work done before summer 2022 to keep up with demand,” he said.

The cost to buy three new pumps with double the capacity of the current pumps is $46,988. It will take about 7-9 weeks for the pumps to arrive, and then city will need to hire out a contractor to install them. Czarnecki did not know how much that would cost.

Councilmember Jim Salzwedel asked if the city could charge the township to help cover the cost since the pump station serves township residents almost exclusively. Burns said that under its agreement with the township, the city has an obligation to provide service. However, he added City Attorney Dick Wendt thought there may be a way to charge for some of the cost.

Lowell City Council voted unanimously to order the three new pumps as well as new controls and a SCADA system for the pump station. The total cost is $183,591, which was slightly more than the $175,000 budgeted.

Burns Approved for USDA Signature Responsibilities

The city is pursuing USDA bonds to pay for major road and infrastructure work on Monroe and Washington Streets. As part of the process, the city’s chief executive officer – that is, the mayor – must sign a number of items electronically.

“There are security protocols that must be met to sign these documents,” Burns said. “The mayor has tried to meet these protocols, and it’s been a challenge doing so.”

“I’ve been trying for like a year to get a validation that works,” Mayor Mike DeVore added.

As a workaround, Lowell City Council voted unanimously for Burns to draft a letter that DeVore could sign and that would give Burns signature responsibility for the bond items.

Fire Department Update

Fire Chief Shannon Witherell provided the council with an update of department activities and events, such as their recent trunk-or-treat/open house.

Councilmember Marty Chambers asked if the department would be outgrowing its facility soon, but Witherall did not know when that might happen. “When we’re going to have to look at a different building is beyond me,” he said.

Cross Connection Control Program Approved

Both city ordinance and state law require the city to have a cross connection control program. The program involves annual inspections of piping in which non-potable water could backflow into the drinking water supply.

Czarnecki recommended a two-year contract with HyrdoCorp of Troy, Michigan for a total cost of $43,350. At this price, the company will conduct a minimum of 88 commercial inspections and 138 residential inspections each year.

Councilmembers unanimously approved the contract.

New Water Treatment Plant Car OK’d

In the final business of the night, Lowell City Council unanimously approved the purchase of a new staff car for the water treatment plant. The current vehicle is a 2010 Chevy Impala with 140,000 miles on it. It was previously used as police cruiser, and its body is rusting.

The city had budgeted $35,000 for a new vehicle, and Czarnecki recommended the purchase of a Chevy Bolt EUV 1LT which could be obtained through the State of Michigan MiDeal Program for $31,791.

The next regular meeting of Lowell City Council will take place on Monday, November 15, at 7pm in City Hall.

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