Engineering a township: Olson’s work leads to municipal projects

John Olson is president of Merritt Engineering Inc., a consulting engineer firm based in Stevensville. The Marquette native has been involved in Southwest Michigan projects for more than 30 years. (Don Campbell | HP Staff)

John Olson is president of Merritt Engineering Inc., a consulting engineer firm based in Stevensville. The Marquette native has been involved in Southwest Michigan projects for more than 30 years. (Don Campbell | HP Staff)

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

BENTON TOWNSHIP — John Olson has been involved with engineering work for more than 30 years for various projects.

As a graduate of Michigan Technological University in 1973, Olson used his bachelor of science degree in civil engineering to become registered as a professional engineer in Michigan.

Olson is president of Merritt Engineering Inc., a consulting engineer firm that does work for municipal and private clients. While working for a consulting firm in the Chicago area, Olson was the engineer responsible for topographic surveying, construction layout and inspection of street construction for large subdivisions and industrial parks.

Since joining Merritt Engineering in 1982, Olson has been a design and project engineer for a number of utility projects – mainly for public usage.

Herald-Palladium staff writer Tony Wittkowski sat down with Olson to discuss his career and what makes his job important.

When did you start working there?

In 1982, Larry Merritt, the guy who started this company, asked me to join him in the firm when he got going. He and I knew each other from the time we both worked for the same firm in Chicago.

What do you do at Merritt Engineering?

Our engineers work on site plans for both public and private developers. We serve a lot of municipal developers as well. The projects we handle often deal with sewer and water systems and street and subdivision construction.

What sort of responsibilities does your job entail?

Just trying to get the jobs in and out and done in a timely matter. My partner and I go to those public meetings when our projects are being discussed. We field questions from the planning commission and township boards when seeking approval for site plans.

Is there anything that might surprise people about the engineering process?

Sometimes the cost and the time it takes to get a project approved. If you’re not familiar with the process, it can be surprising because there are a lot of regulations and hoops to jump through.

What’s been the most challenging project you’ve undertaken?

Probably a few years ago when we did the Benton Township water improvement project. There were miles of water mains. We had to get it designed in a hurry and get the permits. Part of the project required a new lake intake, which involved working with the MDEQ and the (U.S.) Army Corps of Engineers. We got that done and approved quickly. It was a $22 million project – the largest project we’ve ever done.

What’s your favorite part about your job?

It’s great seeing something you’ve accomplished, seeing where you started from nothing and got to the finished product. It’s hard to top the satisfaction of completing a project that does what it is supposed to do and meets the needs of our clients.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Feb. 8, 2016)

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