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City’s infrastructure valued at $560M

Alexander Sinn • Jun 5, 2019 at 1:00 PM

A black sheet was pulled off a display case during Monday night’s Grand Haven City Council meeting, shining a light on the buried bones of the city.

Water pipes inside the case, rusted and corroded with age, demonstrated more than a century of work ahead for the city: replacement of infrastructure.

Derek Gajdos, director of the city’s Department of Public Works, presented a recently completed inventory of the city’s infrastructure, down to these small sections of piping, which add up to costs to be borne by generations to come.

In total, the city’s infrastructure is valued at $560 million, and the replacement schedule for everything from roads to sewers to storm drains is expected to take more than 100 years.

“If we want to build the entire City of Grand Haven over again tomorrow, we’ve got to write a pretty big check,” Gajdos said.

Grand Haven, like Rome, won’t be built in a day — but the city’s infrastructure is among the most pressing budgetary concerns for the city. To pay for those improvements, the city will ask voters in November to approve a 3-mill perpetual infrastructure millage. Its passage will allow the city to pay in cash for infrastructure projects and save the city millions in the bonding process.

Budget increases are already recommended for the city’s road system. Grand Haven’s roads are rated at 3.8 on the PASER scale, with the city’s current budget of $500,000. An increase to $1.25 million is needed to bump up the quality to a 5.9 on that scale. 

Added together, the estimated value of all roads, ramps and sidewalks totals $277 million.

The city’s water system — mains, hydrants, valves, meter pits and services — is valued at nearly $120 million. The sanitary sewer system — which includes sewer mains, services, manholes and lift stations — is estimated at $102 million. The storm sewer system — including manholes, catch basins and outfalls — totals $61 million.

The inventory is based on 2019 dollars, Gajdos said, but will help the city gauge the necessity for replacements over time.

More than $40 million has been invested in the system in the past 13 years, Gajdos said. Approval of the bond initiative in November would bring the expected replacement schedule for all infrastructure needs from 181 years down to 112 years. The average life expectancy of the city’s infrastructure is between 60 and 80 years, Gajdos said.

“While we’re not interested in replacing all of our assets in one shot, and we don’t need to, the vast majority of them are in some type of need,” Gajdos said.

Due to state law, the city will be tasked in the coming years with replacing all lead lines leading to homes within the city. Nearly half the city’s water lines — 4,500 of them — contain lead, and per property could cost around $2,500 for the city-owned portion and $2,000 for the portion owned by residents.

Mayor Geri McCaleb said the inventory puts the need for constant repairs and upgrades in relief.

“This shows why we keep whittling away at our infrastructure,” she said.

The cases with water service and main lines dug up by Department of Public Works crews are on display at City Hall.

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