By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
BENTON TOWNSHIP — Benton Township got good news a year earlier than expected.
In late August, the township officials were informed by state officials that they will receive a $2 million Stormwater, Asset Management and Wastewater grant from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.
Trustees proceeded to approve an engineering services agreement last week with Prein & Newhof. The engineering company and the township will use the grant’s funding to create an asset management plan, which determines how the township manages its wastewater system.
Developing the plan involves reviewing records to determine where everything is located and to schedule inspections of the conditions of all underground lines. Steve Oosting, senior engineer with Prein & Newhof, said they will work with township officials to create a plan to determine a timeline for when the underground infrastructure will deteriorate and what the needed repairs might be.
“This would allow us to study the system and compile all that information, giving the township the ability to make data-driven decisions in the future about how to prioritize needs going forward,” Oosting said.
Despite the township getting the SAW grant, there is a wrinkle involved with spending the money.
Controller Kelli Nelson said when the township first applied for the grant in 2013, the township would have been able to use $1.5 million of the grant toward surveying the system and $500,000 toward construction costs. However, the MEDQ changed that policy prior to the township getting the SAW grant.
Now the entire $2 million must be spent on creating the asset management plan.
The township expects to receive funding by October, Nelson said.
“When they let us know about this a couple weeks ago, our whole schedule was moved up,” Nelson said. “We can begin to incur costs prior to then, but we can’t submit for reimbursement until the grant has been awarded.”
The township does not have to match any percentage of the grant because it is considered a “distressed community.”
Oosting said they anticipated the township getting a SAW grant in the fifth round of grants. Instead, it came a year early. The MEDQ announced its fourth round of recipients in August, which totaled $97 million.
Treasurer Debbie Boothby said the township has tried replacing and pinpointing lines with immediate concerns up to this point.
“This will take things to the next level. Everything will be on maps, all the GPS is going to be laid out and they are going to put cameras all of the lines,” Boothby said. “It’s going to be a very intensive study of the township’s (wastewater) system.”
The township has either completed or scheduled nearly $5 million in improvements in the last two years, which included a $1.5 million sewer rehabilitation project last year.