Can Do Gets Complex Job Done

October 14, 2002
| By Katy Rent |
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GRAND RAPIDS — Working with one contractor, one engineer and a full load of obstacles, Moore & Bruggink Inc. Consulting Engineers succeeded in improving the quality of life this summer for one Northern Michigan island.

Moore & Bruggink and its Beaver Island Improvement Project were rewarded for these efforts when the company received the Michigan 2002 Quality of Life Award at the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) annual awards presentation.

ASCE confers the award annually to the single engineering project in the state that reflects excellence in engineering that improves quality of life of an area.

“The coordination efforts required, given the various project components and funding sources, plus the added challenge of the remoteness of the island certainly made this an intriguing project and exemplifies what our Quality of Life Award is all about,” said Gailius Vasonis, chairman of the ASCE Awards Committee.

Over the years, Main Street on Beaver Island had been periodically patched, but there wasn’t a way to truly fix the artery because no hot asphalt was available on the island.

With 4,000 people living on the island during the summer months, Gary Voogt, president of Moore & Bruggink, said a repaving of the street on the 13-mile-long and six-mile-wide island was essential.

“The catalyst project was resurfacing and improving Main Street, which funded bringing extensive construction operations to the island,” he said.

“Combining the jobs allowed us to issue a contract to a single contractor, making it feasible to actually mobilize an asphalt plant on the island, the cost of which exceeded $100,000 alone. It also allowed St. James Township to resolve the challenge of acquiring and managing funding from a diverse group of sponsors.”

The project began with a successful $1.4 million grant application and final negotiation by the construction management company to rebuild Main Street.

“There were a lot of negatives to resolve to bring long-overdue infrastructure improvements to Beaver Island, including no asphalt plant, no gravel plant, no large equipment and little money,” said Voogt.

The answer came in the form of a mobile asphalt plant that was barged across the lake to the island. The same circumstances stood for the gravel plant. In turn, the equipment also needed fuel and the fuel also had to come across the lake from the mainland.

In addition to not having the proper equipment and fuel, there was little local labor to perform the work. “The workers also then had to have houses to live in on the island, as well as working out a system with the ferry boat and the airport to get them to and from the island,” added Voogt.

Upon completion, several projects were added to take advantage of the first-time-ever availability of an asphalt plant on the island, including the addition of a 140-car parking lot for ferry passengers, funded by the Beaver Island Transit Authority.

The project also came to embrace a complete sewage containment and treatment system, and paving of several roads accessing churches and the public library.

Voogt said improvements would also be completed on the airport, a project that secured a $1.4 million grant from the Michigan Department of Transportation.

This summer the island will add a hiking trail — made possible with yet another grant —while continuing airport improvements and looking at other roadwork elsewhere on the island.

“We really stayed within our confinements of improving the island while preserving its old town feel,” said Voogt. 

“And we did it by protecting the land and water, while improving the aesthetic appeal — while also making it easier for people to get around and protecting the water.”

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