Sewer Projects

THIS PAGE PROVIDES REGULAR UPDATES. The purpose of this page is to provide continued information and transparency on these projects. 

October 5, 2021

MINUTES: Special Meeting: Tuscarora Twp. Sewer Sub Committee, October 5, 2021 6:30 pm.

Call To Order: 6:30 pm

Roll Call: Robert Kramer (Committee Chairman), Janet Vance (Committee Secretary), and Mike Ridley

Agenda:

 UPDATE: Earmark Applications to US Senate and House of Representatives

 UPDATE: USDA Applications

 Equalization tank at sewer plant

 Draft join letters to 26 owners

 Phase 3

 Discussion: Petition processes and requirements/Special Assessment district(s)

 Community Q&A

Schedule next meeting

 More Citizen Comments

Motion to accept/amend the minutes of September 4, 2021 meeting

 Motion made by Chairman Kramer to accept as written, Mike Ridley seconded, Motion passed

Agenda was amended to add report of the visit from Senator Peter’s aide, Kelly Lively. Motion passed, and will be included during the update concerning Earmark Applications to the US Senate and House.

UPDATE: Earmark Applications to US Senate and House of Representatives

 The earmark applications are now waiting on the Budget Reconciliation process and, basically, are on hold. Senator Peter’s aide, Kelly Lively, visited the sewer district to survey the potential project area first hand. She was greeted with a lovely fall day and a very informative pontoon boat ride down the Indian River. The district’s need for sewers became evident, and we are hopeful for the Senator’s support. The requested Earmark would cover approximately 50-55% of the costs for Phase 1 (North of Mack Ave.) if the earmark package was agreed upon. Special Thanks go out to Bob and Patti Murdock (owners of Howe’s Marina) for the pontoon boat tour and Vickie Losh for her support with hosting Ms. Lively.

UPDATE: USDA Applications

 Chairman Kramer reported the district rated higher than expected by the USDA rating guidelines, according to the Engineer, Aaron Nordman. Mr. Nordman said the township should be receiving an eligibility letter by the end of October. That is good news! The USDA grant of $2.8m should cover approximately 45% if we should receive it, but if not; we are in good standing to wait until the next round. 

Equalization tank at sewer plant

 The Township received $305,000 for Covid relief funds, and even though there are restrictions yet to be determined on how to spend the funds, one thing that is allowed is infrastructure improvements, particularly sewer and waste water enhancements. It has been an ongoing request of Mead & Hunt (the management company employed to manage the sewer system) to upgrade the holding ability of the plant to protect the capacity from occasional surges. The Engineer has also recommended a 25,000 gallon “surge tank” to be installed at the approximate cost of $50,000. This would not only protect the plant from capacity surges with the current district, but would also be helpful if future districts were added. This would be in addition to any expansion of the sewer plant included with the costs of the potential districts. It was reported the surge tank would be helpful in the summer, during high volume periods, but also in the winter when the plant goes through the cleaning process, and sections have to be shut down.

 Chairman Kramer made a motion to recommend the purchase of a surge tank, using Covid Funds, to the Township Board. Ridley seconded the motion. The motion passed.

Draft join letter to 26 owners

 Out of 214 properties in the districts, about 26 property owners may be eligible to join multiple parcels into one single lot. If the property owner chooses to take advantage of this opportunity, it would save being assessed for each individual parcel. The properties have to be contiguous (touching) or directly across the street from each other. Kramer presented a draft letter to send to those 26 property owners explaining the process and the advantages of joining the parcels. He made a motion to recommend the letter to the Township Board, and seconded by Vance. Vance amended the letter to include contact information of the Township Assessor. Motion Passed. 

Phase 3:

 Bob Murdock reported that the area which includes Nabanois Street, Howe’s Marina District, and the boat launch, etc. may want to be included in the sewer expansion. If they obtained the necessary 50% + of the required signatures, the Township Board would need to agree to accept the petitions, and there would be required Public Notices and Public Hearings in order to proceed. If approved, they would probably be referred to as “Phase 3”.

Discussion – Petition Processes and requirements

 It was explained this is a “Citizen Driven Project”, and the Township is only facilitating the financial opportunities needed for the project. All petitions will be distributed by a citizen committee. Examples of acceptable petitions are available. 

1- Each property owner will receive a petition that will explain the information and the costs 

2- The property owner may choose YES and then will be REQUIRED to return the petition

3- If the property owner chooses NO, they may or may not return the petition. All unreturned petitions are counted as a NO.

4- The petitions to proceed with the project (YES) will have to be more than 50% of the districts land mass. That will be determined by each property’s size, and the sum total of the area of the YES petitions.

5- If the petitions reach the required 50% +, the petitions will be delivered to the Township Board for corroboration of signatures and to verify the total of the “YES” land mass.

6- The Township Board will vote to accept or deny the petitions. If the petitions are accepted, the Board will seek construction estimates, which would be referred to as “going out for bid”.

7- If the total cost of the construction bids exceed the estimated costs by 10% or more, the districts will have to be re-petitioned.

Next Meeting: The next meeting will be prior to the Regular Township Board Meeting, November 2, 2021. The time was moved to 6:00 pm to allow more time for discussion and public comment.

Citizen Comments:

• Q: How are the REU’s assigned when there are additional bathrooms or living spaces, for example, above a garage?

A: Each home will receive 1 REU. If the living space is used as additional guest or office space, and is not rented out as an independent living space, it would most likely be included with the 1 REU. If there is a question of the actual usage, the Township assessor will make the assessment determination.

• Q: Do we have 2 Districts and if so, will they be joined?

A: We hope to have 1 District with 2 Phases. The USDA recommended we split the District up to provide maximum opportunities for available funding. Our Financial Advisor and Bond Counsel will make the final determination on if or how we would accomplish this.

• Q: Does the sewer plant need to be expanded and would this be possible?

A: Yes. When the original Commercial District was established, the plant was constructed to only serve that area (by law), however, the plant is a “module” design, and was built to accommodate additional “pods” or “components” when additional districts were added. Each district will be assessed the costs of the necessary expansion.

• Q: What is the difference between “Grant” money and “Earmark” money?

A: The Grant money will be issued by the USDA/ Rural Development Agency. We hope to get approximately 45% of the entire costs of Phase 2 (South of Mack Ave.) if successful. Earmark money comes directly from the Federal Legislative Budget, and these earmarks have to be requested by our representatives and senators, and go through a lengthy appropriations process. If we are successful, we are hoping for an earmark that will cover 50-55% of the entire costs of Phase 1 (North of Mack Ave.), because Phase 1 will be the more expensive district.

Neither the Grants nor Earmarks would have to be paid back. In addition, the USDA/RD will be providing low interest loans for the balance of the costs, and the loan will be stretched over a 40 year time span.

• Q: The Committee that is spearheading the initiative (CHIRP) conveyed the need for more Block Captains in an effort to contact neighbors, providing information and gathering contact information. They want to make sure EVERYONE is aware of the project and the details.

Respectfully submitted,

Janet Vance, Township Board Trustee

Sewer Sub-Committee Secretary


 October 5, 2021

Tuscarora Township Board of Trustees Sewer Report for October, 2021 Meeting

The Phase I Sewer Application is in fnal review at the state level at USDA. We expect an eligibility letter to be issued by USDA in November.

Senator’s Peter’s aide toured our area last Thursday. Trustee Vance, Bob Murdock of Howe Marine and Vicki Losh from CHIRP hosted the tour. Senator Peters is supporting our earmark request.

We expect USDA to survey the Phase II area this month, with the application being filed in November.

September 22, 2021

You can see the USDA Rural Development Phase 1 Sewer application here.

September 13, 2021

On September 13, 2021, Mike Ridley, the Township Supervisor, submitted a township application for a USDA loan and grant for the Phase 1 North residential sewer system. The application was previously reviewed as a courtesy by USDA Traverse City. The township should receive a response in 45 days, which should be a letter that qualifies the township for available loans and grants. Be mindful that we may have to wait a little until grants become available. This is all dependent on available federal funding. 

When the infrastructure bill passes Congress, USDA wastewater grant programs should see an increase. 

 Sen Stabenow’s office also said our earmark is still in committee in the Senate.

The next step is to finish the Phase 2 USDA application in the next few weeks. We will keep you up to date. 

 September 7, 2021

Tuscarora Township Board of Trustees Sewer Report for September, 2021 Meeting

Last month USDA notified us that they needed additional corrections and additions to our application for Phase 1.

Last week I wrote a letter to the USDA specialist and the area director concerning processes. On September 7th, I got a positive response. I believe we will move forward on Phase 1 quickly. We only need to update the financial portion which will be used for both Phase 1 and 2 applications. Our auditor is working on that. The next step is a preliminary review by USDA followed by Township Supervisor certification.

Once Phase 1 application is accepted, we will invite Mr. Smith of USDA back to Indian River for the Phase 2 survey.


September 4, 2021

NEXT MEETING: Tuesday, October 5, 2021 6:30 pm Twp. Hall

Special Meeting: Tuscarora Twp. Sewer Sub Committee

September 4, 2021 10:30 am

Call to Order: 10:24 am

Roll Call: Robert Kramer (Committee Chairman), Janet Vance (Committee Secretary),

Mike Ridley (Absent)

Agenda:

UPDATE: Commercial District – Township/County partnership on permits

UPDATE: Earmark Applications to US Senate and House of Representatives

UPDATE: USDA Applications

Discussion: Next Steps

Guest Speaker: Schwab family (Ana and Oliver), Aaron Nordman Performance Engineering

Community Q&A

Schedule next meeting

Citizens Comments

Board Comments

Motion to Adjourn

Motion to accept/amend the minutes of August 3, 2021 meeting

Janet made a motion to accept, Bob seconded – Motion passed

Agenda accepted as written

UPDATE: Commercial District – Township/County Partnership on permits

There has been an agreement with the County to inform the Township when a “Change of Use” or building permit has been applied for, when that particular change would have a possible affect with the present REU assignment for that particular property.

UPDATE: Earmark Applications to the US Senate and House of Representatives

Congressman Bergman has requested an Earmark of $3.5m for Phase I (North of Mack Ave.). The request has passed through the House and we are awaiting authorization from the Senate. This would cover approximately 50-55% of the costs of Phase I or II. Phase I (North of Mack Ave.) is the more expensive of the two proposed sewer districts, mostly because of the size and the need for additional pumping stations.

Representative Bergman personally toured the district August 6th, with a “meet and greet” hosted by Howe Marina.

Senator Stabenow has requested a $14m earmark, but will probably be limited to around the $3.5m that the House has agreed to. This Earmark is working its way through the system, but if all goes well, it still has to pass the full Senate. However, we will not be allowed to receive BOTH Earmarks, but we applied for both in hopes of receiving one of them. Senator Stabenow’s Senior Aide toured the proposed sewer district August 20th. The current Infrastructure bill winding its way through both the House and Senate may help with the availability of funds.

Senator Peters has requested a $2m Earmark, but would not be very helpful because the Special Assessment costs would still be very high.

Both Senators have put forward requests to support funding the Township’s sewer project.

As previously stated, if the Earmark requests are not successful, additional funding may be possible through the USDA/RD and EPA/Michigan State Tribal Assistance Grant Program (STAG).

UPDATE: USDA Applications

The application process is moving forward, but slowly. There seems to be a problems with certain requirements and conditions and communications with USDA. The USDA has not approved the requested grant application, but we are working with the USDA to specify exactly what they are requiring so we can respond appropriately. Representative Bergman, Senator Stabenow, and Senator Peters have agreed they will help the Township navigate through the USDA process, and help us get to a “positive outcome”. Without a USDA grant and loan approval, even with the Earmarks, the project will be in jeopardy.

Discussion: Next Steps

There will be a preliminary review, which will take about 5-10 days for Phase I, and then begin work on Phase II. We are waiting for the decision on the Earmark funding, which should be towards mid-October. We are working with the USDA to meet their needs as well.

• Confirm funding

• Petitions to be sent out to the property owners

• Survey crews/area mapping

• State permits and reviews

• Township review

• USDA review

• Project goes out to bid

• If bids come back 10% or less of the estimated costs, the project will move forward

• If bids come back over 10% of the estimated costs, the property owners will be re-petitioned

Guest Speakers: Schwab family and Aaron Nordman (Performance Engineering)

Oliver and Ana Schwab were not able to attend due to issues in Washington D.C. They sent an e-mail to explain, and her letter will be included in the minutes as part of the permanent record.

Aaron Nordman (Precision Engineering) – He explained that the USDA recommended that we break the original district into two districts to maximize grants. The North District is more expensive than the South District. The collection system is extensive, requiring more pumping stations, as well as the distance to connect with the current system. The assessment costs between the two districts are similar, within about $1,000 of each other.

Community Q&A

• Why was the original district divided into two districts?

This idea was suggested by those at the USDA/RD, and it may have actually made it more probable for funding possibilities. To receive an Earmark or grant for the entire project would have been extremely difficult and problematic, however, by breaking the district into two sections, the funding opportunities increased.

• Will the Township eventually try to combine the districts into one?

YES, if legally possible. That will be determined if we get enough funding for both districts, and if the lawyer, financial advisor and bond counsel agrees to the concept.

• Will the districts have the same or different assessment costs?

They will probably be different, but close to the same. At present, the estimates are within $1,000 of each other.

• Could the residents of Sturgeon Island opt out of the sewer project?

Probably not, but it would a judgment for the Township Board to decide. The project has been in the works for about 2 years and if the residents of Sturgeon Island objected to their inclusion, opportunities to express their concerns and objections have been made available. The Township has had numerous meetings, information has been posted on the official Township website, the local newspaper has published many articles related to this project, and a citizens group distributes an informational newsletter to any interested party. The township provided the required public notice and held a public hearing. The Township has been as transparent as possible, so requesting removal of Sturgeon Island from the district at this time would jeopardize the entire project.

When deciding the regions to be included in the district, the focus was on the areas of greatest need. All the federal applications that have been submitted grant funding requests from the US Senate, House of Representative, and the USDA/RD, have included engineering reports on the proposed district(s). If the district(s) would change at this late date, we would have to start all over again, and thus forfeit any grant funding that may become available.

• There were several questions concerning grinder pumps.

Grinder pumps will be installed on private property, but will be owned and maintained by the Township. The costs of maintaining them will be included with the district(s) monthly operation and maintenance costs (O&M). This will assure the pumps will be working correctly at all times, preventing any major system failures. There will be warning lights in case of problems, and it may be possible for the warning devices to be hooked to the internet to give immediate notice if there are any issues with the mechanics.

• There were some questions concerning the special assessment petitions.

The petitions will go out to every property owner in the district(s). Current addresses for every property owner will be necessary. The petitions will be sent after funding is secured and all requirements have been met. If the Board receives over 50% of returned petitions indicating the property owners are IN FAVOR of the project moving forward, then it goes to the Township Board to either accept or deny the project. All petitions NOT returned will be counted as a NO vote.

• Question: Are you required to hook into the sewer system, even though you may have a working septic system?

YES. It is Michigan State law that requires everyone to hook into the system. Property owners are responsible for the expenses of hooking their house to the sewer

connection, and must disable their current septic system, either by having it removed, or filling the tank with sand.

• Questions about low Income financing.

There are funds available through the USDA/RD for low income aid and information will be made available for those interested. Also, there is a community based support committee looking into the possibility of helping those who need assistance. More information will be made available soon.

Next Meeting: October 5, 2021 6:30 pm

Citizen Comments: None

Sub-Committee Comments:

Bob Kramer (Chairman) and Trustee Vance thanked everyone for coming, and thanked Aaron Nordmann (Engineer) for his participation as well.

Respectfully submitted,

Janet Vance, Township Board Trustee

Sewer Sub-Committee Secretary

Written comments by Ana Schwab:

Good Morning Tuscarora Township,

My apologies for not being able to be in person with you all today. I wanted to share this statement as there have been a few updates since our last meeting together in July.

At the last meeting, I reported that Congressman Jack Bergman lead a funding request for the Township for the sewer project. This request passed the House of Representatives and awaits a vote in the Senate. Shortly after our meeting, the Senators of Michigan released the requests they were putting forward to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment. I am pleased to share that both Senators Stabenow and Peters put forward requests to support the Township’s sewer project.

At this time, the House and Senate are finalizing a budget process which they hope to have wrapped up by September 30th. There is a chance that moderate Democrat Senators may not support the current size of the package and cause a delay. Should a delay arise, there will be a short-term funding measure that will give Congress a window to finalize the necessary pieces for the FY22 appropriations bills.

We are very hopeful that the support from Congressman Bergman, Senator Stabenow, and Senator Peters will lead to direct funding for the Township’s sewer project.

Between our last meeting and now, the Township hosted Congressman Bergman and staff from Senator Stabenow’s office.

The Congressman had an opportunity to come to the Township and meet with residents to discuss the sewer project. Residents shared the imperative nature of the project and appreciation for his support of the Township. Following the

visit, the Congressman shared how much he appreciated connecting with the residents, the Township Trustees, and to see for himself the need for a sewer system. The visit with Senator Stabenow’s office was similar to Congressman Bergman’s.

One piece that needs to be touched on is regarding USDA. As Trustee Kramer shared, the USDA did not support the application for a grant for the Township. This was incredibly disappointing. There have been a number of disconnects with USDA and this cannot go on any longer. When the Congressman and Senator Stabenow’s staff were out, they were both informed of the disconnects and both reiterated their willingness to support the Township navigate the USDA process to lead to a positive outcome.

While it is disappointing that the USDA did not approve the grant, we are all still working together to ensure a positive outcome. In addition to USDA, there are a number of funding opportunities that will become available (should be by the end of the year) – that the Township is well positioned for.

Again, I am sorry I am not there with you today to answer your questions and dive into this further. I hope to be able to see you all at the next meeting.

I hope you all have a wonderful day and weekend.

Very best,

Ana Schwab


September 4, 2021

 Proposed Residential Sewer Phase 1 Report

The township has posted the latest draft of the final Preliminary Engineering Report for the Phase 1 Residential Sewer Project. This will be reviewed by USDA. Meanwhile the township is updating required financial information to the application.

Click here to review the report.

August 3, 2021

Special Meeting: Tuscarora Twp. Sewer Sub Committee

August 3, 2021

Call to Order: 6:00 pm at the Tuscarora Twp. Hall

Roll Call: Bob Kramer (Committee Chairman), Janet Vance (Secretary), Mike Ridley (Late Arrival)

Agenda:

UPDATE: Sewer Ordinance

UPDATE: Earmark Applications to U.S. Senate and House of Representatives

UPDATE: USDA Applications

DISCUSSION: Next steps and letters to owners of multiple lots coordinated with the Supervisor and Assessor

Possible next meeting: Saturday Sept. 4, 2021 10:30 am and guest speaker

Citizens Comments

Sub -Committee Comments

Motion to Adjourn

Motion to accept/amend the minutes of July 3, 2021 meeting:

Janet made the motion to accept, Bob seconded Motion passed

Motion to accept/amend the agenda:

Janet made the motion to accept, Bob seconded Motion passed

Update: Sewer Ordinance

In an effort to have flexibility for the business district, it was proposed that the township look into having temporary leasing of REU’s. The Bond Counsel advised NOT to have temporary leasing, but the lawyers are reviewing the situation because it may be possible for the DDA to purchase REU’s, and then lease them on a very limited basis.

Update: Earmark Applications to U.S. Senate and House of Representatives

Congressman Bergman sponsored a $14.8m earmark for the district, but the House Sub-Committee and the full Appropriations Committee only agreed to $3.5m for all requests. The next step will be going to the full House floor, and we are waiting to see what is determined.

If the proposed district is split (at Mack Ave.) the north district would probably be the area to receive the earmark, if approved, because this district is the more expensive of the two. This would cut the costs by approximately 53% to about $14,000 – 14,500. We would then apply for additional funding through USDA/RD for the South District.

Mr. Blake Smith (USDA/RD) took a “windshield tour” of the proposed district. This was to identify unbuildable lots. Only 1 discrepancy was found.

Senator Peters sponsored a $2m earmark, and Senator Stabenow sponsored a $14.8m earmark. These are in the early stages of committees and we are under the impression these earmarks are a long shot. Keep in mind, these earmarks cannot be “stacked”, “but we are still in the game”! Additional funding would be possible if these opportunities do not pan out, such as USDA/RD and Michigan State Tribal Assistance Grant Program (STAG).

Ana Schwab and her law firm, is working PRO-BONO to help frame and shepherd the grant/earmark application process through the House and Senate. These particular grants/earmarks would be through the EPA.

Update: USDA Applications:

There is no money in the USDA at this time. They are in the process of “re-pooling” their funds in September. The USDA recommended that the proposed district be split at Mack Ave. This would help the North district to receive a grant upwards of 45%. Mack Ave. South would have to apply by end of August for USDA/RD grant.

Discussion: Next steps & letters to owners of multiple lots coordinated with Supervisor and Assessor

Lot joining – the process of combining properties that have contiguous points, (the lots touch each other), even if the lots may be on opposite sides of the street. This would prevent some property owners from being assessed for each lot. If in the future the owners may want to split the lots and sell them off individually, it would make it more expensive because the owners would have to provide a “sewer connection head” for the separated lot to make it buildable and the split lot would be assessed at that time. If the lots are joining, but in different plats, special arrangements will have to be made.

There will have to be a cut-off date for joining the lots, to make it possible for the engineers and Bond Counsel to determine how many lots will be assessed in the district(s). Technically the cut-off date will be in the same fiscal year. After the cut-off date, there will be no lot combining allowed.

An up to date contact list of all district(s) property owners will be necessary. This will be vital for communication between the township and the property owners. Even though we will continue to provide all information on the township website and Facebook page, we will be looking into a newsletter for those who do not have the capability of using the internet options.

Discussion: Next meeting

Janet made a motion to have the next meeting a “town hall style” and schedule it the Saturday before Labor Day. This would be an attempt to accommodate the most people in the area, and it would duplicate the meeting we had during the Fourth of July weekend. ( September 4th Time- 10:30 am.) Motion carried.

Citizens Comments:

Q -“Would it be possible for the township to post a maintenance schedule for the grinder pumps?”

A- The township voted to own the grinder pumps for efficiency of maintenance. We will work with Mead & Hunt to establish a grinder pump maintenance schedule, and have it posted on the website or have it available upon request.

Sub-Committee Comments:

Bob- Announced that Congressman Bergman will be here 2 pm, Friday, August 6th. He will have a “windshield tour” of the proposed districts so he can personally see the need and speak to the residents concerning their issues. We will be back at the Township hall at 3 pm, and at 3:30 pm attend a Business Round Table Discussion at Howe’s Marina.

Janet- Voiced concerns that FOIA requests may be charged unreasonably, and that is a direct contradiction to our efforts to maintain transparency. This could create the impression that the township is discouraging public inquires.

Respectfully submitted,

Janet Vance, Trustee

Sewer Sub-Committee Secretary


August 2, 2021

Before breaking for their August Work Period, the House of Representatives passed a package of appropriations bills. Included within the Interior-Environment bill is the Tuscarora Sewer Community Project Funding Request for $3.5 million put forward by Congressman Jack Bergman (MI-01). The bill has not been taken up by the Senate.

 Tuscarora Township Board of Trustees Sewer Report for August, 2021 Meeting

On June 28, 2021, the township filed a grant and loan application with USDA for $6.3 million. The project area is west of Straits Hwy, north of Mack Ave (not including Mack) to Hemlock Street, Prospect Street to include all of Columbus Beach.

We will file the next application with USDA  Rural Development in late August for $5.2 million for the area south of Mack Ave to the Sturgeon River, including Sturgeon Island. The publication notice and public hearing requirements have been met.

The request for an earmark in the House of Representatives sponsored by Congressman Jack Bergman (MI-01) awaits a vote by the full House. The House Appropriations Committee recommended we receive $3.5 million.

Congressman Bergman will be in Indian River on the afternoon of August 6th to tour the proposed sewer district followed by a business roundtable at Howe Marine. Trustees Vance and Kramer will escort Congressman Bergman on the windshield tour.

Senator Gary Peters is seeking a $2 million earmark for the township project. Senator Debbie Stabenow has proposed $14.8 million. Both requests have been sent to the appropriate Senate Committee.

This means that the Congress may authorize through legislation (Community Project Funding) for the township to receive funding for a sewer project through an EPA State and Tribal Assistance Grant (STAG). If passed by the full House, it would go to the conference with the Senate or the Senate could take up the House bill. 

At the last Sewer Subcommittee meeting in July, some residents were concerned about costs for citizens on limited incomes. Trustee Kramer contacted USDA Rural Development concerning possible grants and loans for low-income residents. The program is handled out of the Ste. Sault Marie USDA RD office. Those homeowners that qualify can receive up to $7,000.00 in grants and/or up to $20,000.00 in very low interest loans.

 July 21, 2021

Senator Stabenow forwards Township's Sewer Project to Senate Committee

Senator Debbie Stabenow has forwarded the Township’s sewer project as a Congressionally Directed Spending request. The request for $14.8 million was sent to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environmental, and Related Agencies. You can see it here at the bottom of the page: 

Just as in the House, the Senate committee can change, modify or cut the project. Senator Peters also sent in a request for the Township at $2 million.
Last month the House Appropriations Committee forwarded our project to the full House in the amount of $3.5 million.

July 9, 2021

 We have learned that Senator Peters is asking for $2 million in Senate funding for our sewer project. You can see the projects he put forward by clicking here. See the last Item at the bottom of the page.

It appears that Senator Stabenow has published the projects she is considering, including our initial request for $14.88 MILLION. See second to the last item at bottom of page by clicking here. 

On Thursday, July 8th, the USDA Rural Development Area Representative visited the township and toured the Phase 1 area ($6.2 million cost) as part of the loan/grant application process which we filed last month.

 July 3, 2021

Board of Trustees Sewer Subcommittee held a special meeting (Townhall Meeting)

Directly after Roll Call was taken, Janet Vance read the “Declaration of Intent” which outlines the intent of this committee to only use the committee’s authority to advise the Township Board and our commitment to 100% transparency throughout this process.

Update: Sewer Ordinance and Temporary Leasing of REU’s

 This ordinance only pertains to the Business Sewer District with the possibility of temporarily leasing RUE’s. Steve Mann (Bond Counsel) is currently working with us to try and facilitate this matter. There has been some hesitancy from our lawyers, however, it is important for the viability and growth of our business district for us to try and get some flexibility concerning future use.

Update: Earmark Applications

 Congressman Bergman (US House of Rep.) informed us our application made it through the Sub-Committee hearing and will be voted on by the entire House soon. It is remarkable we made it through this far, but we have a long way to go.

 Sen. Stabenow and Sen. Peters said we should hear something next week, but it carries weight with the Senate that we were approved by the House Sub-Committee.

If we are so fortunate to receive an earmark from the House, it will be for $3.5m and will cover approximately 55% of the cost for the smaller district, North of Mack Ave. to the Sturgeon River. The House capped all earmarks at $3.5m.

Update: Michigan State Revolving Fund (EGLE)

 We only could qualify for the loans only. We wanted to get on the State’s Intended Use Plan (IUP) which makes it easier to apply for earmarks and EPA grants. We had trouble meeting their public notice requirements because we followed USDA’s policy and the request for exception was not approved.

Update: Health Dept. Meeting / USDA Applications/ Next Steps

 The USDA required a letter from the Health Department to indicate the need of sewers in the proposed district before they would accept any of our applications. The Health Department agreed to send a letter to the USDA stating at least 51% of the district could not meet present replacement standards without variances. 

 USDA Applications: there have been many hurdles since July 2019, and the USDA has made changes to applications requirements, which meant more time and money. The USDA wanted to include the money from the Burt Lake State Park contribution, which was allocated for the first sewer district; because that is the district they joined. It was decided NOT to use that money for any sewer expansion. We did divide the district into smaller districts due to the small amount of grant money available. “District South” is described as South of Mack Ave to the Sturgeon River. “District North” is Mack Ave. and North. The application for District North has been sent to the USDA, and District South will be sent in 30-60 days. Both are currently being considered for House and Senate Earmarks. It is vital to apply for any grant money we may qualify for to help keep the people’s costs down as much as possible. We may know something by January about any USDA grants and mid fall for the earmark.

Guest Speaker: Ana Schwab

 Ms. Schwab is the Director of Government Affairs for the law offices of Best, Best, and Krieger LLC, Washington D.C. She specializes in helping water and waste water infrastructure projects through the legislative procedures. Because she has a local seasonal home, and has a personal interest in this project, she and her law firm are working at NO COST to help us navigate through the process. 

 “The House sub-committee accepted it at the House and as a whole took up the bill and we are also waiting for the Senate.” (Schwab) The goal is “working with USDA and the EPA and we need congressmen and senators to agree with the Project.” She encouraged citizens to call the congressmen and senators to garner their support. We are waiting to hear more about the new infrastructure bill and she also said there is no conflict with receiving USDA loans and EPA loans if we apply for both.

Special thanks went out to Scott Swanson for the help and advice he has given to the committee to help avoid “pitfalls” experienced from the first sewer project.

Public Comment: (Some of the public questions from the meeting)

Q: Are there legislators we can “lean on”?

A: Send support to Rep. Bergman, Sen, Stabenow and Sen. Peters letting them know you appreciate the help.

Q: How long do we have to wait?

A: Best guess is we’ll know something by January from the USDA side, and Earmarks sometime in the fall.

Q: What are the cost increases since 2019?

A: There has been an increase of about 25% for construction since then, but also in replacing the present systems as well.

Q: What about the grinder pumps?

A: The grinder pumps will be in the Right Of Way and will be paid by the entire districts. They will also have alarm systems incorporated to alert the sewer managers of any problems. 

Q: Hook up fees?

A: That will be up to each property owner to contract for that service. There will be low income grants and loans available for those who qualify.

Q: What about joining additional lots?

A: If the lots touch, you can join the lots and this will reduce additional special assessments. Remember, even if the lot is across the street, you may be able to join the lots. Please call Assessor John Gehres to determine if your lots can be combined. There will be a dead line needed so as to determine the exact assessment cost.

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 Tuscarora Township Board of Trustees Sewer Report for June 29, 2021 Meeting

On June 28, 2021, the township filed a grant and loan application with USDA for $6.3 million. The project area is west of Straits Hwy, north of Mack Ave (not including Mack) to Hemlock Street, Prospect Street to include all of Columbus Beach. The project, if approved by USDA and local properties owners would provide sewer service for approximately 213 parcels. The township plans to submit another application in the next 30-60 days for the area which includes an area north of Barbara Avenue, including Sturgeon Island, east of Burt Lake, west of Straits Hwy, and south of Mack Ave. A copy of the application can be seen by clicking here.

On June 28th, the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, House Appropriations Committee announced a funding bill that includes our sewer project request that has been sponsored by Congressman Bergman. See the news release here.  

The Subcommittee capped all projects at $3.5 million. Our project is listed on page 5 of the report that you can see here. 

This means that the Congress may authorize through legislation (Community Project Funding) for the township to receive a $3.5m grant through an EPA State and Tribal Assistance Grant program (STAG). The next step is a vote by the full House Appropriations Committee. If the township is still in the running after that, it goes to the full House. If passed by the full House, it would go to conference with the Senate or the Senate could take up the House bill. 

Earmark requests to Senators Peters and Stabenow are being considered by the Senators staffs. They also asked if the projects could be scaled over two years which we replied in the affirmative.

Our request for exception to the EGLE State Revolving Fund using USDA public notice and hearing procedures was denied. Our intent was to attempt to get Tuscarora Township Sewer Projects on the State’s Intended Use Plan, as recommend by congressional staffers.

PUBLIC HEARING - NOTICE OF INTENT TO FILE APPLICATION 

Tuscarora Township, Michigan intends to file an application for federal assistance with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Rural Utilities Services. The project includes a Phase 2 expansion of the sanitary sewer system to a residential area in Indian River which includes an area north of Barbara Avenue, including Sturgeon Island, east of Burt Lake, west of Straits Hwy, and south of Mack Ave. A public meeting for comments will be held on June 29, 2021, 7:00 pm at the Tuscarora Township Hall, 3546 S. Straits Highway, Indian River, or if required by the State of Michigan, at a meeting held by electronic means at the same date and time, to discuss the proposed project and to provide the opportunity for public comment. Any additional information can be found in the “sewer expansion” section of the township web page at tuscaroratwp.com or may be obtained by contacting Tuscarora Township at (231-238-0970).

June 8, 2021

District Health Department 4 provided the township with an important letter. This letter is extremely important because it shows the majority of our proposed sewer project area can not meet current sanitary standards. For USDA grant programs, this letter is heavily considered in their process, (greater than 50% can not meet standard) accounting for 25% of the “points” on their scoring system.

June 2, 201

Tuscarora Township Trustees report on Health Department meeting concerning local sewer project

Trustee Janet Vance and Trustee Bob Kramer, along with a representative from Precision Engineering, attended a meeting with Director Denise Bryan, Director, District Health Department 4 and her staff in Alpena on June 2nd. The meeting was held to discuss issues relating to the possible sewer expansion project and requirements the USDA was requesting from the township.

“The meeting was very positive, friendly, and informative”, said Trustee Vance. “We were told they would issue a letter in support of the project and would work to accommodate any necessary requirements needed to apply for the available USDA grants.”

Trustee Kramer, Chair of the township’s sewer subcommittee, said Director Bryan and her staff was extremely supportive.

“We briefed them on all our initiatives and promised to keep them updated moving forward. With this working relationship, our community will benefit from their expertise,“ Kramer said.

The next Sewer Sub-Committee meeting will be July 3, 2021 at 10:00 am at the Tuscarora Township Hall. The public is invited to attend.

June 1, 2021

Sewer Report to Board of Trustees: Per our May special meeting, applications for “earmarks” have been made with our two Senators. We also filed an application with EGLE for the State Revolving Fund and t get on the state’s Intended Use Plan (IUP). The redacted application is on the web site.

Tomorrow is our meeting with the Health Department. The DHD4 Director, Environmental Health officer and the county sanitarian will be there. We will have Trustees Kramer and Vance, Performance Engineering, will attend. I have conferred with the township attorney this morning on next steps if we are not successful.

We still do not have an environmental report uploaded to the USDA application site. It is still with USDA. USDA responded today: “Aaron and I have reviewed the attached MI Guide 2 while reviewing RD Apply several times already and he has been checking off completed items. In talking to my Program Director and she concurs that the Notice of Intent advertised will not need to be readvertised if the application is submitted in the next month. Even though the guide points out that the filing date should be within 60 days of the publication.”

Ms. Davis in our law firm has the amendment to the sewer ordinance. She recommends we redo the entire ordinance and add the “leasing” part all at once.

June 1, 2021

On May 31st, the township filed an application with the Michigan EGLE State Revolving Fund with the objective of getting the project on the Intended Use Plan.  See it here.  (Large file, long download time.)

May 20, 2021

At a special township board meeting on Thursday, May, 20th, the board voted to proceed with actions on the sewer project: The Board approved

-  $14.88 million legislation request to Senator Stabenow for the sewer system (80-20 EPA STAG grant)

- A $14.88 million legislation request to Senator Peters for the sewer system (80-20 EPA STAG grant)

- A request to the Michigan EGLE State Revolving Fund by the June 1 application deadline for phase 1 and 2 residential sewers.

 - Authority to amend our legislation request to Congressman Bergman to show our request to the State Revolving fund and request to be placed on the Intended Use Plan (IUP).

 - Authorization to start the process to apply for Phase 2 residential sewer (area south of Mack Ave, $5.3 million)

The board reviewed status of Phase 1 USDA application (area north of Mack Avenue). The application is under USDA review for acceptance. We expect to submit the final application to USDA early next week.

Health Department. In order to get a sizeable grant from USDA to keep homeowners’ costs down, the USDA needs a letter from the Health Department stating that 51% of the homes in the new sewer district could not meet today’s code. Performance Engineering did a study showing that due to small lot size, about 70% of the properties were to small too meet distance requirements in today’s code. The health department declined to provide the letter. The township has asked for a meeting and are still awaiting a response.

If the township does not get an agreement to meet by May 26th, the Board authorized requesting assistance from Michigan state legislators to facilitate a meeting.

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May 11, 2021

Board Sewer Report 5-11-2021
Last week we were contacted by Congressman Bergman’s office and informed our request for a legislative earmark is now before the House Appropriations Committee. Under the EPA program for which we are seeking an earmark, the legislation would provide an 80% grant of the total project costs of 18.6 million. I emphasize that earmark legislation is very much a long shot, but worth taking.

Also, the Senate is preparing procedures to apply for earmarks. Senator Stabenow’s office will contact me when they have the procedures in place. Since the Senator is the Chairman of the USDA oversight committee, we may want to seek the maximum USDA RD grant of 45% which would be $8.37 million.

On Monday, May 10th, Performance Engineering had a preliminary application review with Mr. Blake Smith, USDA, Traverse City. This application encompasses residential sewer Phase 1 with properties north of Mack Ave (but not including Mack).We have a checklist of additional items to add, change or replace in the application that includes
 - Consolidation of Support Letters
 - Copy of original CAGE registration
 - Current Rate schedule with O&M Rate sewer/loan special assessment
 - Contract with Township attorney
 - Contract with Bond counsel
 - Update all financials and balance sheets
 - Update savings accounts
 - Update present day volume and connection info
 - Update environmental report
 - Update community activities section

I will have a workshop with Performance Engineering Friday at 10am to update these items. We must have the Phase 1 application accepted by USDA no later than May 21, 2021 due to the 60-day notice requirements.

DHD4 letter. A letter from the Health Department stating that 51% or more of the properties in the new sewer district could not meet present day code would give us 26 “points” of 100 towards our application. Without the letter, we would probably not get a grant. Performance Engineering conducted a “desktop survey” of the new district and presented it to the Heath Department for review (attached). Hopefully, this will provide the necessary info so DHD4 can issue the letter we need.

The Burt Lake State Park money remains an issue. Despite guidance from USDA Lansing to pass a resolution to earmark the funds for the commercial district, Mr. Smith continues to state that he will count that money as the township’s contribution to the residential district. It is apparent there is an internal problem within USDA. I have asked for a “meet and greet” with USDA Lansing. However, the Board needs to discuss a strategy on how to address this issue. Options includes formal letters, assistance from Sen Stabenow who is the Chairman of the USDA oversight committee and/or a broader meeting with USDA officials. In my opinion, we cannot allow funds from one district to finance another.

DHD4 Assessment

Assessment Map

Bob Kramer, Trustee, 5-11-2021


 April 30, 2021

Congressman Bergman seeks $18 million funding for local sewer project

Congressman Jack Bergman notified the township that he is submitting a $18 million residential sewer project to the appropriate Congressional committee for possible earmark legislation. The project would provide sanitary sewer service for almost 800 homes along or near the Sturgeon and Indian Rivers and Burt Lake. The township had the largest of the 10 projects selected in his district. Each Congressman also gets to submit 10 infrastructure projects. If successful, this amount would be an 80% grant from the EPA. However, the Congressman’s staff wants to make sure the community  knows this is a difficult process that may not be successful due to the high number of projects being submitted in the House of Representatives.  You can see all the projects that Congressman Bergman selected to move forward at his web site at https://bergman.house.gov/constituen.../funding-requests.htm

UPDATE April 16, 2021

The Township Board conducted a special meeting of the Sewer Subcommittee on Thursday, April 15. See the draft meeting minutes.

DRAFT Meeting Minutes April 15, 2021

A draft declaration of Committee Intent was proposed, and after some minor amendments, it was approved. Final statement:

  “Please be known that…

  This advisory committee, known as the “Sewer Sub-Committee”, was established by the Tuscarora Township Board of Trustees, with the sole intent of collecting information and making recommendations to the Township Board as a whole, concerning issues related to the present waste water system, known as “Sewer District-1”, and the possible expansion of the system to include and accommodate additional districts.

  Even though we have a quorum of the Board of Trustees, it is not the intent of this committee to make policy or to make any final decisions, nor do we have the authority to do so. We will adhere to all Open Meetings Act rules and laws, including encouraging pubic participation. We will publish committee meeting minutes on the Township Web site upon approval.

 The above declaration is in accordance with the advice from the Michigan Township Association.”


UPDATE April 9, 2021

The Township[ Board submitted a request for a congressional earmark to Congressman Jack Bergman (R-MI-01) for a 18.6 million dollar sewer project.  You can see the document here.   You can see the support letters fron local officials here.

UPDATE April 6, 2021:

The Township conducted a public hearing Tuesday, 7pm, April 6th, on its notice on intent to apply to the USDA for sewer loans and grants. Citizens comments were taken.

During the regular Board of Trustees Meeting that followed a project update was given.:

SEWER REPORT UPDATE, 5pm Apr 6, 2021

1. Performance Engineering will have their part of the application completed in a few days.

As soon as we upload our financial data and our Burt Lake State Park Earmark Resolution, we can apply for Phase 1 of the residential project, hopefully next week, right after the USDA release their Environmental Report.

Be aware that USDA has a scoring system to determine grant amounts. Based on factors such as financial health, Median Household Income, etc.

2. Request for congressional earmark draft completed to submit to Congressman Bergman for consideration. Awaiting support letters and health department letter.

3. SEN Stabenow’s office called today to inform us that the Senate has not yet decided on an earmark policy. They will let us know. Additionally, as the Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Oversight Committee, her office will support our project through USDA.

The Board then passed a resolution supporting the earmark request to Congressman Bergman.

A Board sewer subcommittee was formed consisting of Supervisor Ridley and Trustees Vance & Kramer. The first subcommittee meeting will be April 15 following the noon special Planning Commission and Board of Trustee meeting. This meeting will be noticed and will be open to the public, as well as by phone or zoom.

UPDATE April 5, 2021: Board of Trustees Sewer Report by Trustee Kramer (click here)

UPDATE March 24, 2021

PUBLIC NOTICE

NOTICE OF INTENT TO FILE APPLICATION

Tuscarora Township, Michigan intends to file an application for federal assistance with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Rural Utilities Services. The project includes a Phase 2 expansion of the sanitary sewer system to a residential area in Indian River which includes an area north of Barbara Avenue, including Sturgeon Island, east of Burt Lake, west of Straits Hwy, and the near north side of the Indian River along Prospect, including Columbus Beach. A public meeting for comments will be held at April 6, 2021, 7:00 pm at the Tuscarora Township Hall, 3546 S. Straits Highway, Indian River, or if required by the State of Michigan, at a meeting held by electronic means at the same date and time, to discuss the proposed project and to provide the opportunity for public comment. Any additional information can be found in the “sewer expansion” section of the township web page at tuscaroratwp.com or may be obtained by contacting Tuscarora Township at (231-238-0970).

Background Information – Phase 2 Sanitary Sewer System Project

Over the years the need for a residential sewer system in high-density areas in around the Indian River, Burt Lake and the Sturgeon River has only increased. Demands on septic systems have changed significantly, with the typical household water usage having increased dramatically due to dishwashers, clothes washers, garbage disposals, more frequent bathing and retirees moving permanently to their “vacation home” in Indian River.

A community group (CHIRP – Citizens and Homeowners for Indian River Progress) was formed in 2017 by local citizens for the sole purpose of petitioning township government to support a cost study for a residential sewer system. The petitions were circulated to all property owners in the residential area west of Straits Highway, north of Burt Lake State Park, east of the Burt Lake, and Prospect Street along the north side of Indian River. This area is known today as the “Phase 2” sewer district, see attached map. This area consists of approximately 410 homes, 2 churches and two businesses. The petition to township government defined the area of interest which is zoned by the county as “P-LS,” Lake and Stream Protection District, due to most of the residences being with 1,000 feet of a body of water. The area consists of mostly older homes, some from the early 1900’s. Residents who supported the petition drive cited failing drain fields, noncompliant drain fields, the inability in some cases to meet existing code due to a lack of space for a replacement raised drain field and environmental protection. Eventually, the “Phase 2” area submitted petitions by the majority of property owners based on both individual properties and land mass. As the community effort continued, the Burt Lake Preservation Association and the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council supported the effort. Additionally, two other neighborhoods north and along the Indian River started their own successful petition drive with overwhelming support.

See attached map. As the community noticed our efforts, other neighborhoods also petitioned the township, with subsequent petitions rolled into “Phase 3.”

As a result, the Burt Lake Preservation Association donated $8,000.00 to the township, who then contracted a feasibility and cost study by Performance Engineering of Charlevoix.

In July of 2019 after the study was completed and accepted, the Tuscarora Township Board of Trustees determined that this citizen-driven initiative be authorized and directed that an application be submitted to USDA for grants and funding.

As of this writing, there have been numerous delays in submission of the application due to changing administrative requirements including the need for an archeological study approved by the Michigan Historical Preservation Office and availability of funds and grants.

It is the township’s intent to submit a complete application for Phase 2 no later than April/May, 2021. If successful, Phase 3 will then be pursued.

In Phase 2, the project will expand the modular existing sewer plant and install a gravity system with additional pumps in low lying areas near Burt Lake and the Indian River.

Phase 2 & 3 Map

UPDATE: March 2, 2021

The environmental report has been completed. This includes the archeological study which was holding up our application process. USDA has used 67% of the funds available. There may be more funding when USDA pooling occurs in August. Next steps:

1. File Phase 2 application with USDA (concurrently with Tribe review of environmental report, per Mr. Granskog, USDA). Mr. Ridley has the authority to direct the application be filed per Board resolution on July 12, 2019.

2. In the next month or two, determine if we want to seek a loan from EGLE for home hookups or refer individuals to the USDA 504 program which is 1% interest over 20 years, including grants for low-income over 62 years of age. (See below).

- USDA loan program is now at 1.75%. If residents chose to pay over 40 years, it could reduce the cost by as much as $150 a year. USDA may use our “Additional REU” fund as an offset in the awarding of loans or grants.

- Township filed notice of intent to apply for grant/loan with EGLE. EGLE determined that the township is not a disadvantaged community and therefore not eligible for a grant. However, Governor has put wastewater community grants in next budget. If passed, we would qualify.

- EGLE states that it is possible to apply for a project loan for sewer hookups to homes. Deadline is June 1st. Loan is 20 Years at 1.875% interest, 30 years at 2.125%. Upon approval, it can be pushed out to other FYs if the project is not ready for execution. Or residents can get a USDA personal loan for hook-up, 1% over 20 years, with some grants available for those who are over 62 and low income.

- Congressman Bergman’s legislative aide told us that the USDA RD wastewater program received more loan money than it requested this FY.

- Senator Stabenow’s aide discussed when and how to get the Senator’s support for a USDA project. Senator Debbie Stabenow is Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. This Committee has jurisdiction over agriculture programs, nutrition programs, and rural development.

UPDATE: At the August 6, 2019 regular board meeting, Supervisor Ridley informed the board that the USDA is only accepting a loan application for District 2 at this time. If property owners in Districts 3, 4 and 5 express interest in obtaining loan and grant information in excess of 50% of land mass within the next 30 days they can be added to the application. The township board is holding a workshop on Tuesday, September 17, 2019, to discuss items relating to the sewer project: grinder pumps, sewer rates and the criteria sheet

UPDATE: On Friday, July 12, 2019, the township board voted to apply for a USDA Loan. Before the end of July,  Mike Ridley, Supervisor will meet with the Engineer and USDA/Rural Development for a required application meeting. Once the application has been submitted USDA/Rural Development has 45 days to respond to the township..

On July 6, 2019 Tuscarora Township hosted an informational presentation on the proposed sewer expansion in Indian River. In attendance was the Township Attorney and Engineer to answer questions.  At this early stage of the planning process IT IS IMPORTANT to note that all cost figures are ESTIMATES. The following projected costs were presented at the July 6th meeting. These are an estimation if all eligible parcels are combined into one tax identification. This reduces the number of Residential Equivalent Units and raises the cost.

Expected Costs for Sewer Expansion

The following estimated costs are from Performance Engineers, Inc., and contain no combined parcels.

Preliminary Service Area Map

District 2 - Cost for Pressure System

District 2 - Cost for Gravity System

District 3 NE of Bridge

District 4 - NE of River

District 5 - Rainbows End

Cost if every district is constructed

We will continue to provide updates on the progress of the project as they occur.