Government and Sustainability

City moves forward on stormwater plan

General fund deficit was more than $4 million for last fiscal year

October 15, 2012
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Grand Rapids city commissioners recently agreed to spend $450,000 to update the city’s Stormwater Management Plan, which was created in 1994.

The bulk of those dollars, $348,000, will go to the project’s consultant: Tetra Tech PC. Tetra Tech is an environmental engineering firm based in Brighton and was one of four companies that submitted bids for the work. The remainder of the dollars will go to the city’s engineering department and for project contingencies that have been estimated at 15 percent.

The money will come from the city’s transformation fund.

The city’s stormwater system is fairly large, with roughly 442 miles of storm sewers, 12,000 manholes, 20,000 catch basins, 72 miles of ditches, 19 miles of streams and 11 pump stations. The system has a dollar value of nearly $800 million.

“Asset management of a system of this size requires considerable resources. There is also significant vulnerability to city services if portions of this system fail,” said Haris Alibasic, director of the city’s office of energy and sustainability.

Last month, the West Michigan Environmental Action Council presented the findings of a two-year stakeholder and research project on the current condition of the system. WMEAC reported that the city needs to improve the management of its stormwater assets, create an asset-management plan and find equitable and sustainable ways to raise revenue to make and maintain the necessary improvements to the system.

In addition to updating the 18-year-old management plan, the project will also tackle the creation of an asset-management plan for the system.

On another matter, City CFO Scott Buhrer told commissioners expenditures from general operations topped revenues by $4.7 million during the recently completed fiscal year.

The unaudited figures showed spending reached $120.8 million in FY 2012, while income to the fund topped-out at $116.1 million. To cover the gap, $4.7 million was withdrawn from the fund balance, leaving the reserve account at $9.1 million on July 1.

“The unfortunate reality is that current service levels and current staffing levels are simply unaffordable,” wrote Buhrer in his report.

“Difficult decisions will accompany such change, but complacency is not an option,” he added. “At the same time, we must also remember that transformation takes time, especially when no fewer than 76 activities are being evaluated for redesign.”

Spending for the current fiscal year has been tabbed at nearly $116.5 million, while revenue has been estimated $116.7 million.

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