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IM braces for costs to replace lead ‘goose neck’ water pipes

IRON MOUNTAIN — A 2020 paving schedule is being prepared but work on some of the worst streets may be delayed because of the need to replace water main “goose necks” containing lead, City Manager Jordan Stanchina said Monday.

Some streets are “going to have to wait a few years extra” as the city tries to deal efficiently with state-mandated water service projects, Stanchina told the city council. The aim is to avoid paving streets that will be torn up later for a water job, he explained.

A rule created by former Gov. Rick Snyder in the wake of the Flint water crisis directs communities to replace all lead service lines by 2040.

Iron Mountain has up to 1,800 lead goose necks that will have to be replaced over the next 20 years at a rough cost of $9 million. The city is required to remove lead goose necks even though a sampling of homes with such connections has shown no levels of lead that demand action.

The city has yet to start on the projects, other than doing an inventory of its water distribution system. A lawsuit in Lower Michigan challenging the water rules has mostly stalled and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer appears ready to enforce the standards.

Small sections of lead pipe were often used in water systems until about 1950 to allow a flexible connection between rigid delivery mains. The bent segments of two or three feet took the shape of a goose’s neck.

Apart from the goose necks, the city has few if any lead service lines, Stanchina said.

Barring new developments, Iron Mountain’s water customers could see substantial rate increases beginning this summer while work to replace the lead service connections begins in 2021. Street paving decisions may often be tied to the utility work schedule.

“People are going to have legitimate gripes,” council member Bill Revord said of potential delays in paving. “This is going to be a long-time issue,” he said.

In other action Monday, the Iron Mountain council:

— Reminded residents that an online survey related to the city’s master plan has been posted at www.cityofironmountain.com. Plan consultants from Beckett and Raeder Inc. will be in town this week for a progress update.

— Heard Mayor Dale Alessandrini voice frustration over allegations he’s heard that the city prevents certain retailers from locating within its borders. The city invites development, he said, and has never thwarted a proposal.

— Awarded a bid for removal of 22 dead trees throughout the city to 1st Down Tree Service of Breitung Township for $8,900. There were three other bidders, with Bill Neuens Landscaping of Kingsford the next-lowest at $9,640. Contract approval is subject to insurance requirements.

— Awarded a bid to M.J. Electric of Iron Mountain for repairs at a sewer lift station on Crystal Lake Boulevard for $15,630. There were no other bidders but MJ’s proposal was within the $17,000 budgeted.

— Agreed to prepare a perpetual access agreement for a home at 1128 Crystal Lake Blvd. where the only available driveway runs through a city-owned lot. The city maintains a catch basin on the parcel and will retain ownership while allowing continued access to the house.

— Authorized a parade route for a Memorial Day observance on Monday, May 25. As in years past, assembly will be on East Ludington Street. The parade will begin at 8:45 a.m., proceeding south on Stephenson Avenue for an assembly in front of the Dickinson County Courthouse, using Stephenson Avenue as the audience area.

— Approved city audit proposal specifications for the next two years.

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