Lagoon Dredging

Dredging work at the Three Oaks sewer lagoons.

THREE OAKS – It was a long time coming, but the dredging project at the Village of Three Oaks’ sewer lagoons is done.

Village Manager Mike Greene told the Village Council during its Aug. 14 meeting that NutriGro hauled away and dumped three million gallons of sludge on nearby farm fields and the valve to the newly dredged pond will reopened. The project, originally scheduled for last fall, was delayed by heavy rains that prevented the spreading of the dredged material on the fields. Work on the sewer plant upgrade will begin next spring.

Although Trustee John Pappa said he thought it looked like there was still a lot of waste remaining in the pond, Greene said three million was the amount determined by the project engineers. He said the new aerators installed in the ponds should help the bacteria in the lagoons to digest the remaining waste, particularly since waste from Journeyman Distillery is not being discharged into the village’s sewer drains.

In May 2018, Journeyman was ordered by the village to stop discharging into its system and has been paying to haul it to a distant treatment facility. When contacted after the meeting, Journeyman owner Bill Welter said the distillery is continuing to look for the most cost-effective method of handing its discharge.

Later in the meeting, Grosse said the village can now submit its long overdue sewer asset management report to Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (formerly Department of Environmental Quality). He asked the council to submit any comments or corrections to Greene.

Looking ahead, the council scheduled a public hearing on its 2019-20 budget for Wednesday, Sept. 11, at 7 p.m. (before its next council meeting). Copies of the budget are available for review on the village’s website, at the village hall or the Three Oaks Public Library.

Greene presented a brief overview of the budget, beginning with the fact that there will be no millage rate increase, with general operations millage remaining at 9.0015 and streets millage a 3.6004. Later in the meeting, however, Grosse said this might not be the case in future years since expenses keep going up and the revenue-to-expense ratio is getting thin.

As an example, Grosse mentioned the new state requirement that municipalities are responsible for lead-free water piping to the dwelling. Previously, the municipality was only responsible up to the curb line, with the remaining distance of pipe up to the homeowner. Greene noted that this matter is being challenged in court.

• 81 percent of the budget are for the five areas of: police at $320,850, public works at $149,350, parks at $138,600, general administrative at $60,300 and fire protection contract at $48,000;

• Major expenses will include $45,000 for a new police vehicle, $10,000 for a dispatch radio/tower for the police station, $5,000 for a new administrative office computer; and  $41,500 for overhauling Well No. 4.

Greene stressed the importance of keeping employee pay rates competitive, noting the recent difficulty in filling the water and sewer positions. He budgeted a 2 percent cost of living increase for and additional merit increases based on performance for all full-time employees.

In other Aug. 14 business, the board approved the bid of $36,400 from RL Roofing of Michigan City (the only one of five firms responding) to replace the roofing on the Watkins Park pavilion, the wastewater barn and the water department building.

The council approved payment of $69,000 to Walsh & Kelly for this year’s street repair project. After discussion, the council agreed to wait until next year to bring four manholes, at about $1,500 per manhole, back up to street level. Greene explained that the work was not done by Walsh & Kelly during this year’s street project even though they did the work last year under the same bid specifications. 

In other matters, the council approved:

• A one-year contract renewal for Greene and a 2.5 percent cost of living increase;

• Promotion to Police Sergeant for Carl Krause and a salary increase to $20 per hour;

• Payment of $18,800 to Abonmarche Consultants for its work on the Chamberlain Path Revitalization to be paid from the USDA/Pokagon Grant of $90,500. The project includes new walkways, lighting and landscaping;

• Street closings for Wurstfest on Saturday, Sept. 21, of Elm Street from Maple to just south of Linden; and for Journeyman Distillery’s Barrel Aged Brew Fest fundraiser on Saturday, Oct. 19, of Generations Drive from the U.S. Post Office parking lot to the end of their building, subject to notification of Acorn Theater.

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