USDA have provided 289 pages of documents via FOIA request. After review a link will be posted here.
1. Proof exists that the USDA application began before the November 2014 election. Who made that decision, at what Village Council meeting was it discussed and approved?
2.Who met with USDA to discuss and move forward with this project when there are no notations of this in the public record? [We have received, in response to the FOIA request of USDA, documents related to this]
3. At the December 2014 Village Council Meeting, David Bluhm, Fleis & VandenBrink arrived with a complete contract in hand to proceed. Audience members questioned how this was possible when no one knew the project had got to this point. There was no response.
4. Question – who reviewed and approved this contract beforehand?
5. Why was there no publication of a Request For Proposals?
6. Why were new members of the Village Council caught blind side by this with no briefing?
7. Has the Wellhead Protection Plan been updated? If not why? The Village intends to purchase land from the School as the location of a new well site. Why? How much will it cost to create a new Wellhead Protection Plan for a new well site?
8. What are your plans for the current site – which have been the subject of speculative discussion by non Village residents at the recent Planning committee meetings? Why are you discussing options to contact a developer?
9. In March 2015 a Special Meeting was posted at which Village representatives met with USDA and Fleis and Vandenbrink and were given a set of actions that had to be completed prior to application. Although the Village stated that no action was taken and hence no minutes were recorded – that list was sent to the Village Attorney Randy Hyrns to commence delivery.
10. Of that List – see prior posting – how many have been completed at what cost?
11. Who authorized the contracts, no bid, with a Bond Counsel AND a Financial Consultant?
12. In that list from USDA it states:
Cost Overruns – Cost overruns exceeding 20% of the development cost at time of loan or grant approval or where the scope of the original purpose has changed will compete for funds with all other applications on hand as of that date. Cost overruns must be due to high bids or unexpected construction problems that cannot be reduced by negotiations, redesign, use of bid alternatives, rebidding or other means prior to consideration by the Agency for subsequent funding. Such requests will be contingent on the availability of funds.
13.. Has a Request For Bids been authorized by USDA and issued? If so when, where? How does the Village plan to address under budgeting for this project, or cost over runs?
14. At which Village Council Meeting did you discuss and agree to name Fleis and Vandenbrink AS the Engineering Consultant?
15. Has Fleis and Vandenbrink supplied a certificate of liability insurance? A performance Bond?
16. Why didn’t the Village Council issue an RFP for consulting engineering services prior to signing a $594,000 no bid contract with Fleis and Vandenbrink?
17. You have been repeatedly told “This letter does not constitute loan and/or grant approval, nor does it ensure that funds are or will be available for the project.” Where is the proof of grant approval?
18. When and who made the decision to abandon the original Fleis and Vandenbrink recommendation of $2,555,000.
19. “8. Qualified Status under Section 303(3) of Public Act 34 of 2011 – Prior to bidding, you and/or your bond counsel must verify that “Qualified Status” has been obtained or is ready to file an application with the Local Audit and Finance Division, Michigan Department of Treasury.”
The Village was denied Qualified status due to audit and budget irregularities. This resulted in fines and penalties and a 30 day Notice of Corrective Action.Why was this not noted or discussed at the September Village Council Meeting. How does the Village intend to put it’s financial house in order? How can you possibly assure Village residents that you are even capable of managing a multi million dollar project when you can’t manage your current finances?
20. Who interviewed and appointed Roger Swets of Clark Hill to BE the Bond Council for this project? At what Village Council Meeting was this discussed and payment/contract approved?
21. Mr. Swets prepared the Notice of Intent to issue $1.8m in Revenue Bonds, published one time on July 6, 2016 – why was no address, phone number, web site or email to obtain information included on this display ad?
22. How does the Village plan to address the contingency of committing the General Fund as the back up should insufficient funds be generated in any year to make the annual Bond payment?
23. Why does the Village currently constantly dip into fund balance savings to meet the current Bond payment?
24. Where on the Village web site was the Notice Of Intent published? Or indeed, to date (10/15/16), there is zero mention of any of the details of this project.
25. Where on the Village web site is the Resolution to issue $1.8m in Revenue Bonds published?
26. Why is there no named, numbered Resolution referenced in the June Minutes?
27. Why has the amount for loan/Bond increased?
28. Will Fleis and Vandenbrink, or Mead Hunt be paid $9,000 per year, after the project’s completion – as the licensed operator? – see Budget page previously posted.
29. What is the progress to require the current Village employee to acquire CEUs to become a licensed operator as the previous one was?
30. The Village has never placed either the 2013 Water Reliability Study or the 2015 Preliminary Engineering Report ( – see attached Budget page) on it’s own web site for public scrutiny. Why? Why was it necessary to obtain this information via FOIA?
34. Questions re Budget: [see previous posting]
- In 2015 you were projecting a whopping $303 in operating income surplus on this project following completion !!! That was based on conditions that have changed significantly.
- A Bond repayment was estimated at $51,933 a year but was based on $1.2m in loan.
- The increase to $1.8m – for 40 years – means that will likely go up to $67,000 – effectively eliminating that meager surplus.
- Income is stated at $113,288. MUCH has been touted that current water rates will rise, in this current fiscal year, to $135 a quarter (or $45 per month based on the standard of Residential Equivalency Unit or REU)
- We understand the need for the CURRENT water system to be self sufficient and for employment of qualified employees and ongoing routine repairs and maintenance.
- HOWEVER – if this is the year of full REU billing, and the Village lists water fund income from that of $60,005 (source Village FY2016-17 Budget)- how do you anticipate generating the additional $53,283?
- Exactly how much will the quarterly water bills be to operate the system, fully fund reserves, AND make the projected Bond Payment? In documents obtained via FOIA from USDA it is projected as high as $130 per month! (operation AND debt repayment)
35. QUESTIONS: as listed in the report narrative
** The planned project scope is to replace both Well 2 and Well 3 with new wells of higher capacity installed through a single new well house.
** The ability to increase capacity will be dependent on the results of the hydrogeological study that will be compiled as part of the project design.
** It is anticipated that the existing generator will be adequate to run at least one of the new wells and will be moved and reconnected. If the new wells require larger pump motors, a new generator may be required.
- How do you know the aquifer has enough capacity to serve 2 new high capacity wells without damaging the supply for users in Bear Lake Township? Have you done a new aquifer pump test to determine this?
- Why would you be proposing 2 new high capacity wells when your report states that at a time of drought, in 2010, the oldest well came close to sucking air?
- Why, if you have read the WHP Report which identifies the vulnerability of ground water recharge to the aquifer, would you NOT enact water conservation measures?
- If you are proposing 2 new wells to the same aquifer, why would it be necessary to move the location to school property? Where a greater lift is required, obviously resulting in greater expense? Bigger pump, more electricity costs, higher maintenance.
- Your own report casts doubt on the data – when was the last time the pumps were calibrated? Are you basing your flow figures on faulty data?
- Why haven’t you pulled and cleaned both well screens?
- Why did you abandon the original plan to replace the oldest well first and see IF the aquifer could handle increased capacity?
- How do you plan to maintain sufficient flow through the system during months of decreased use/decreased population? Other communities in NW MI have seen significant freezing events during recent winters.
- How do you plan to raise the ISO rating to ‘commercial’ when your own report states the new water tower, only installed a few years ago, does not meet that ISO capacity threshold? AND that increasing the size for such a small population would lead to a degradation in water taste and quality due to sitting dormant over extended periods of time.
“Based on the Ten State Standards “Recommended Standards for Water Works”, the storage capacity of a water system should exceed average daily use.
The highest historic average day demand (highest in the past 5 years) was 75,227 gallons and the projected 2032 average day demand is 74,000; the existing storage tank has the required capacity to meet the existing and projected future average day demands.
Tanks are also sized for fire flow capability, and based on current total storage and well capacity, the Village has the capacity to meet a residential ISO fire classification, but lacks the capacity to meet any classification above residential (commercial, industrial, institutional). Storage capacity improvements are not recommended to increase system capacity, as it would promote longer detention time for the water in the storage tank which may result in a degradation of water quality.
Instead, it is recommended that the Village install a new well(s) to increase system capacity should they desire to meet a higher fire flow classification.”
Can you explain how a rating that is governed by insurance companies can be guaranteed to rise?
36. Why would you plan for a ‘commercial’ grade transmission line through a functionally obsolete commercial district? Where, even should a developer be inclined to PROPOSE a revamp, the set back lines are 60’ from the center of US31 – effectively preventing any rebuilding on the lake side, and running through the middle of current structures on the other.
37. How can you possibly justify this statement: “Yearly O & M Cost Before Improvements: $46,662.00 Yearly O & M Cost After: $43,600.00”
38. OTHER QUESTIONS:
The Engineering Report forecasts an identical before and after water usage – 106,000?
Water Customer Information:
Residential Dwellings 142, approx. 71,0000
Other Users 16, approx. 35,000
Totals 158 106,000
- How can you then justify the statement that water meters cut leaks?
- What will the base gallons per property allowance be – what will the base meter fee be, the billing and admin fee?
- Will no more seasonal shut offs be allowed?
- How can you then justify the cost and maintenance and reading costs:
Install 158 water meters for all Village water customers, including new meter reading equipment, Village computer and software necessary to complete meter readings and billings. $213,100 [or $1350 each]
- Why not just replace lead lines as part of this project for those who need it?
- Why not do a ‘smoke’ test NOW to determine where the water leaks actually ARE?
- Replacing leaking lead lines, or those of an age likely to be leaching lead, will be both a health service and cut down on water waste, AND cut down on pumping costs.
39. Water Use Discrepancies:
1. The Per Capita current and future projections are alarming, and vastly greater than the normal 75-120 gpd per person, but do not take into account the daily influx of 400+ at Bear Lake Schools.
2. The average daily per capita usage in 2017 is stated at 238 gpd – and is projected to be identical in 2031? That is totally illogical! The math is wrong.
3. In Fleis Vandenbrinks 2013 Water Reliability Study it states:
“The Village is supplied by two wells, designated No. 2 and No. 3. Both wells are active and the lead well position is rotated after each pumping cycle.
The firm capacity is defined as the capacity delivered with the largest well out of service; the rated firm capacity for the Village is 195 gpm with Well No. 3 out of service.
The firm capacity was lowered from the previous study period value of 220 gpm because the new water tank was installed at a higher elevation than the old tank and the additional system head reduced the flow rate of the existing wells. (an independent engineer questions the rationale for this statement?)
The MDEQ recommends the firm capacity of any water supply system meet or exceed the maximum day demands placed on the system.
The historic maximum day demand (highest maximum day demand in the last 5 years) is 134 gpm, which is 69% of the Village’s firm capacity.
The existing firm capacity is adequate to serve existing and future projected maximum day demands.” which is at direct odds with the reasoning that the Village needs 2 new high capacity wells to meet adequate future demand, if indeed the projected population growth is a mere 17 in the next 20 years -?
Why hasn’t the village installed the 4 hydrants it bought?
1. Why not create an independent water board?
2. Why not proceed with a phased 20 year repair and replacement plan as originally proposed?
3. Why do non-village residents seem to know more about the rational AND AGENDA behind, and the progress of, this water system project?
4. If you are so sure this is the right thing to do then answer these questions and put it to a vote!
5. If MDEQ was aware of the issues with one of the wells in 2010, why is there no mention of this in the Village Council Minutes, and why wasn’t State Revolving Loan Assistance offered or requested to make well repairs or replacements then?
[A number of additional comments and questions came in via text and IM and will be included here]
It is our hope that the Village of Bear Lake keeps to its promise of transparency as it would appear residents will have little opportunity to amend this project.