This section of Roberta Drive in Tawas City, from Fifth Avenue to Victoria Lane, is among the roads in the local street resurfacing plan which are to be paved in the 2021-2022 fiscal year. Members of both the Tawas City Council and Planning Commission have given their blessing for the municipality’s updated capital improvement plans. These documents are comprised of the water distribution system improvements and maintenance, major street resurfacing, local street resurfacing and bridge reconstruction plans.

TAWAS CITY – When the Tawas City Planning Commission held their latest meeting, they voted to recommend that the city council approve the municipality’s updated capital improvement plans (CIPs).

Officials did just that, in a 7-0 vote at their meeting the following week, where they accepted the major and local street resurfacing, water distribution system and bridge reconstruction CIPs.

“The information from these plans will be used to establish the budgets for this year and future years,” explained Tawas City Manager Annge Horning.

She also noted that the sewer collection system and drainage system CIPs were not presented this time around, as these have not changed from last year.

Horning summarized the CIPs at both the planning commission and council meetings.

For the street resurfacing plans, she said the city’s Pavement Surface Evaluation and Rating (PASER) scores are updated annually. These reports have been generated since her first year as city manager in 2015, and the East Michigan Council of Governments was hired to conduct the initial scores.

“And they’ve since trained our staff to do the ratings ourselves. So they provided the baseline, and then we’ve just updated it every year since then,” Horning said.

The PASER ratings range from one to 10, with one being the worst condition. Scores of one and two mean that the streets are in need of reconstruction. Ratings of 10 indicate the best condition, and this generally applies to new asphalt which only calls for preventative maintenance.

As for the major street resurfacing plan, projects have been outlined from the current fiscal year (FY), through 2026.

The following has been scheduled for FY 2021-2022, which begins July 1, and each of these road segments have been given a PASER rating of two:

Oak Street, from East Lake Street to Lake State Railway, $16,155; First Avenue, from Anna Drive to Roberta Drive, $6,384; First Avenue, from Roberta to Sunset Drive, $6,783; First Avenue, from Sunset to Manor Drive, $6,783; and First Avenue, from Manor to Hemlock Street, $9,676.

A large portion of Fourth Street, with PASER ratings of twos and threes, will be resurfaced in 2022-2023. In FY 2023-2024, the focus will primarily be on North Street, along with a section of Harris Avenue. In the 2024-2025 FY, resurfacing will be carried out on areas of Ninth Avenue and First Street. For 2025-2026, a stretch of Sixth Avenue and several sections of First Street will be resurfaced.

Horning also showed the planning commission and council members a series of pie charts, demonstrating how the overall street ratings have changed each year, since the first rating in 2015.

She said that the goal, naturally, is to have more scores ranging between fives and tens. “And we’re getting there. The ones and twos are taking up a smaller chunk of the pie as we go on, which is what we want to see.”

The city’s local street resurfacing CIP is set up the same way as the major street plan. Horning said the biggest change with this one, though, is that no local streets were paved in the current FY.

She explained that when the city was working on the budget last year at this time, it was right when COVID-19 was starting to hit. There was uncertainty as to where funding was going to be, with everything shut down, so adjustments had to be made.

She said some projects had to be moved out into the future and/or switched up a bit, since this CIP falls in line with the sewer, water and other plans. “So we had to kind of juggle this one around to get everything to work just right.”

The proposed projects, from 2021-2027, all entail road segments with PASER ratings of one. For the 2021-2022 FY, the following resurfacing is planned:

Court Street, from the dead end or start to First Street, $17,252; Roberta Drive, from Fifth Avenue to Victoria Lane, $12,386; Roberta Drive, from Victoria Lane to John Street, $10,469; and Roberta Drive, from John Street to First Avenue, $22,266.

In subsequent years, resurfacing will be done on segments of Third, Tenth and Eleventh avenues, Townline Road and Second, Sixth and River streets.

As with the major street resurfacing plan, city officials and planning commissioners were also able to view graphics of how the street ratings have changed over the last six years.

Horning also provided a map of all of the resurfacing which has been completed since 2007, noting that a huge portion of the community has been repaved.

Granted, some of this work is now 14 years old and the streets will have to be redone again soon, she said, and the city knows this. But, they have been very aggressive in handling all of the streets. “We have been addressing things over the years and it’s good to see that we’re being proactive with our streets right now. Because there was a time when they were all in very, very bad condition.”

Approval of the CIPs also included the bridge reconstruction plan. Horning said that starting in FY 2015-2016, the city began putting aside $65,000 annually for bridge reconstruction, since all four of these structures are in need of help.

The plan shows a negative amount of $199,520 in FY 2020-2021, which is for the Mathews Street bridge reconstruction that will take place this spring.

The First Street bridge repairs, estimated at $206,000, are being proposed in FY 2021-2022. Horning said the idea behind this is that once John Henry Excavating wraps up the Mathews Street bridge project, it would be best if the company could then proceed right onto the next bridge, before removing all of their equipment.

So, depending on the availability of the contractors, Horning has this as a placeholder in the upcoming FY budget.

Then – based on the contributions at that time – work on the Sixth Avenue bridge will be done in FY 2025-2026, at an estimated price of $$231,855. The Whittemore Street bridge repairs are proposed in FY 2029-2030, at an anticipated cost of $260,955.

As for the city’s water distribution system improvements and maintenance plan, Horning said the first page lists the items which are done on a regular basis.

For example, the budget accounts for changing out residential meters. “We switch out 60 of them a year. The average life of them is about 20 years so, by the time we get through the cycle and replace all 60 of them, we’re going back to replace the first 60,” Horning said. “So it’s a good maintenance program that we have.”

With some of the bigger meters, such as those for large businesses, the local hospital and the school buildings, the city has been switching these units out with meters that are testable.

Horning said they pay somebody to test the accuracy of these meters every five years, and it’s worth the money to do so. If a meter is inaccurate or needs to be recalibrated, it is taken care of and is not replaced. “We just ensure that it’s reading properly. And that saves us a lot of money because those meters are very, very expensive.”

The water distribution CIP also entails cross connection control program inspections. Horning said that, for residences, this is done on a 10-year rotation. There is a check to ensure there are no cross connections or any hazards in the homes which may contaminate drinking water for that household or someone else in the system. “So every 10 years, somebody should be coming to your house to do cross connection inspections.”

Commercial inspections are done on a three-year rotation, and the high hazard sites are checked for cross connections annually. “The city parks have some high hazard ones, so a lot of those are ours, but we do take care of those,” Horning pointed out. “And those are generally connected to outdoor sprinkler systems.”

The water system CIP outlines the exercising of valves, as well, which is conducted in the spring and fall, at the same time the hydrants are flushed.

“In the spring we exercise all of them, so we literally turn every valve in the city,” Horning said. “In the fall, we only do the ones that are connected to the cast iron mains.

“And then in the spring and fall, we flush our hydrants just to help maintain clean water,” she continued. “So those are on the maintenance program of the water distribution.”

In terms of actual system improvements, the city intends to work with an engineer on designing a couple projects in the 2022-2023 FY. This includes designing a Lake Street (US-23) water main replacement, from Tawas River to Bay Drive. It also calls for designing a Bay Drive water main replacement, from Lake Street to Townline Road.

“We generally get them designed a year or two in advance, and then go out to bid,” Horning described of the chart which lists the projects. “And so, below there, you can see when we’re planning to actually do those projects – that are going to be designed in the years prior.”

The chart goes on to show a few other intended projects, through FY 2036-2037.

Horning also said that as the street plans are updated, those which are resurfaced will coincide with the water projects done in the city. “If we tear up a road to put in a new water main, that street will be resurfaced and it will be reflected on the street plan, as well.”

She also noted that the water system report is a requirement of the state, through the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE). It has to be sent to EGLE on an annual basis, to show that the city is working on it.

“This is a requirement that they have now to make sure that they don’t have any situations like the Flint water crisis again,” she elaborated. “They want to see that units of government are working to take care of their water systems.”

Prior to voting on the documents, Councilman Jon Studley asked that if they accept the plans, is the council in fact saying that this is what they will be doing.

Horning answered that approval of the CIPs gives the nod for her, the city clerk/treasurer and the department of public works director to include these in the budget.

“And then we work with it through there,” she said, citing as an example the impact which the pandemic had on the local street paving this FY.

Therefore, she said the plans are still subject to change and are just placeholders for the city, so they know what they’re working toward. “And it gives us a starting point with the budget.”

“All the plans are laid out very nicely,” Councilman Ed Nagy remarked. “The one concern is not the streets that you’re going to do, but the streets that have been done.”

According to Nagy, there are a number of streets which have been resurfaced, but are already deteriorating. “And I would hope that we could have some discussion further on that; how that might be prevented as these are being done by the company that we’re going to give the contract to.”

Specifically, he pointed to Seventh Avenue, between Second and Whittemore; Ninth Avenue, from First Street to North Street; and Eighth Avenue, from First Street to North.

“If the council members would take a look at those, those are already deteriorating on the edges,” Nagy said. “And this is a common problem. There’s nothing earth shaking about that, but we have to be concerned about putting the new streets in and having a system that is done that keeps a better quality construction for a longer period of time. Right now, I think we can do a better job.”

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