City approves bonds for first phase of sewer project

BURTON — City council approved $1,748,202.30, March 1, in bonds to begin construction on the first phase of an estimated $15 million sewer repair and reconstruction project.

The voted unanimously to approve the issuing of low interest bonds to start the plan for the city to repair and upgrade its aging sanitary sewer system over five-years, at a cost of approximately $3 million a year.

Insituform Technologies of Chesterfield, MO, was the low bidder and was granted the contract to build the first phase of the project this summer.

Charles Abbey, director of the Burton Department of Public Works, said the city was fortunate the low bid came in at $1.7 million compared to the estimated $3 million per phase originally projected.

“Stantec (engineering services company) already did the design in the five phases and this phase was bid well under what we anticipated,” he said. “We were estimating $3 million.”

He said the city will fund the project from the State Revolving Fund in the form of low interest bonds over a 30-year period.

At 2.125 percent for the 30-year loan, the project went through design last fall, was bid over the winter and loan closure is planned in the spring with construction beginning on the first phase in the spring.

Councilman Tom Martinbianco said if the cost is less than $2 million the city might consider paying for it in cash.

Abbey said because the city is borrowing money at 2.25 percent interest it makes more sense to borrow and hold onto money in the sewer fund, which is currently operating in the black.

“If you deplete all the money out of the sewer fund, we’d be in the same situation we were with water, with no reserves,” said Abbey. “We’re only taking care of (the worst sections) of a 60-70-year-old system that still has other needs out there going forward. The bonus is you still have reserves if you want to pay it off at some point.”

He cited a recent sewer repair on Vassar Road by Lapeer Road and another on Stockbridge Street which each cost about $40,000 to repair.

Martinbianco, who voted against the project last summer, said he is no longer going to oppose the plan.

“I opposed the project from the beginning, but since a majority of the council said, ‘let’s go, let’s do it, and invest in that infrastructure’, I’m going to vote for it,” he said.

Council President Steve Heffner asked if the council is locked into the other four segments, which are supposed to be completed every year for the next four years. Abbey said the city council did not have to approve future segments if it didn’t want to.

Heffner said he wants to make sure if the city can’t afford to complete the project it doesn’t have to ask its residents for additional money.

“We can’t put this on the residents,” he said. “Not when we’re in the middle of a pandemic.”

Abbey said he was in total agreement and assured the council raising sewer rates is not the city’s intent.

Burton’s 231 miles of sewer and 10 pumping stations, with regional treatment by the Genesee County Drain Commissioner District Water and Waste Services, has been in use since the 1960s and is deteriorating in some places.