OSCODA – Among other business during their latest meeting, Oscoda Township trustees heard an update from Superintendent Dave Schaeffer, on the Michigan Launch Initiative (MLI).

“Right now, the Governor has signed off on the $2.5 million for site selection,” he advised, adding that there are five communities – including Oscoda – which will compete to be selected for the site in Michigan, as far as the MLI.

He said he believes there are two other competitors in the Upper Peninsula, one in Alpena and one in Rogers City.

Schaeffer said he has registered for the Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association’s (MAMA) Space Symposium, which will be held next month in Traverse City.

As reported, this will also be attended by Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport (OWA) Manager Gary Kellan, along with OWA Authority (OWAA) members Mike Munson and David Dailey.

According to Kellan, MLI representatives have encouraged OWAA to attend the event, set for Sept. 9-10, which will focus on developments regarding Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites.

Between now and the date of the symposium, Schaeffer said he and Kellan will be waiting for MAMA to get a signed document with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

“And that contract will outline the site selection parameters, which will allow them to release the RFI – the request for information – that the five communities can come together and respond to,” he explained.

Clerk John Nordeen pointed out that it would be a good accomplishment for Oscoda to be selected as the Michigan site; however, it will then depend on whether approval is also granted by the Federal Aviation Administration.

He said, in other words, there are two big hurdles for the township to climb before this can potentially be realized.

“We’re competing nationwide,” augmented Township Supervisor Aaron Weed.

As previously reported, MAMA Executive Director Gavin Brown gave a presentation at the April 11 OWAA meeting. He discussed the possibility of bringing a launch facility – both vertical and horizontal – to the state, with Oscoda being named as one of the possible MLI site locations.

Should the township be selected, Brown said the activity at the launch site would involve LEO satellites. These are small to mid-size rockets, measuring anywhere from the size of a basketball, to about one yard long.

With the proposed operation being specific to LEO, Brown said the program can focus on the services these satellites provide, such as global Internet access, weather monitoring and voice and data communications. Another example is autonomous cars which, in order to be truly operational, requires them being able to “talk” to one another going down the road, which can’t be accomplished unless a communications system is in place.

Of the potential benefits, should a spaceport operation come to Oscoda, Brown said there would be a dramatic growth of investment and employees, and a boom for the township’s tourism. Everything in the community today – including hotels, housing and restaurants – will have to be utilized as part of the project.

He added that bio-fuels will be used, making the site a “green” spaceport, and that there are a number of investors who see the benefits of this program and are looking at it as the next industry to finance.

OWAA, East Tawas, the Iosco County Board of Commissioners, East Michigan Council of Governments and the townships of AuSable, Oscoda and Greenbush are among those which have since adopted resolutions of support for such a program in Oscoda.

More information about MAMA and MLI is available at www.michman.org.

In other business during their meeting, officials approved adjustments to the wages for election workers, which came at the request of Nordeen.

He suggested switching the pay structure from a per day basis to an hourly basis, which he said will result in a simpler, truer, and more accurate system for compensation of the time put in by election workers.

He notes that the existing system isn’t the most precise, considering the fact that some elections run longer than a normal day, but training can be less than half a day. Additionally, the salaries were last raised in 2014, so he said it may be time to look at the actual rates, as well.

Trustee William Palmer said the election workers – who often put in more than 16 hours at a time – do a fantastic job, and he thinks it’s only fair that they be compensated based on the hours they work.

Nordeen said the current flat rate for an inspector is $160, which is the equivalent to $10 per hour, based on a 16-hour work day. The existing flat rate for chair/co-chair positions is $200, which equates to $12.50 per hour, based on a 16-hour work day.

He shared two different proposed rate options, and the board decided to go with an hourly wage of $11.46 for inspectors, and $14.32 for chairs/co-chairs.

In separate action, the board approved purchasing Neptune brand, Procoder style water meters moving forward, transitioning from the current Sensus brand, iPERL style meters.

Trustee Timothy Cummings asked if these are residential or commercial, and whether it involves different sizes for all the same purpose.

“The vast majority of the water meters purchased are ¾-inch, for residential. They go up to three-inch service for commercial use, but the vast majority are the ¾-inch, and that’s what we’re talking about here,” Schaeffer said.

Cummings asked if the intent is to retro fit these, or to replace them as the older units fail.

Weed said attrition is one aspect, as are the ongoing water main projects in Oscoda.

The request for the change was made on behalf of Fleis & VandenBrink Operations, by General Manager Catherine Garnham.

In a letter to Schaeffer, she stated that the township’s current water meters are purchased from Etna Supply Company for water services up to one-inch in diameter, including all residential services. The iPERL meters are magnetic, which means they have no moving parts. Instead, they rely on the voltage produced by running water to record the flow.

“The meters have an internal battery that powers the magnetic field. These meters were selected by the Township because the manufacturer’s specifications indicate 97 percent accuracy at flow rates as low as 0.1-0.3 Gallons Per Minute,” Garnham stated.

“However, we have experienced erratic metering issues with the iPERL meters because they are such sensitive magnetic meters, they measure both forward and reverse flow (negative readings can occur) and are affected by meter orientation,” she continued. “There have also been issues with the internal batteries failing before the 10-year warranty period, and there is no visual flow indicator to assist in the diagnosis of high water usage complaints.”

She explained that Ferguson Waterworks provided product and cost information for the Neptune models, which are positive displacement meters with a nutating disc. When water flows through the meter chamber the disc oscillates, and the displaced volume is recorded on the meter register.

“The manufacturer’s specifications indicate 95 percent accuracy at flow rates as low as 0.125 GPM,” Garnham notes, adding that the meter is unaffected by meter orientation, and is equipped with a visual flow indicator.

She also listed the following for consideration by trustees:

• Neptune Procoder meters and registers are compatible with the Sensus brand meter reading equipment that the township already owns, and are also compatible with the township’s utility billing software.

• Neptune meters are slightly less expensive than iPERL meters, and are also available in a meter pit style for the same price as iPERL meters.

• Switching to Neptune would provide reliable and accurate meter reading without the erratic reading issues and battery failures currently experienced with iPERL.

• Ferguson Waterworks has warehouses in Midland and Saginaw where they keep Neptune meters in stock, providing for better supply-chain management than is currently provided by Etna.

• Neptune’s Automated Meter Reading (AMR) radio units are significantly less expensive than Sensus brand AMR units, and are compatible with the iPERL meters. According to Garnham, this is important in regard to the township’s strategic goal of implementing AMR in the future.