ISHPEMING, Mich. (WJMN) – The City of Ishpeming announced a more than $16 million sewer infrastructure project that will include a combination of several components of the City’s Sanitary Sewer Infrastructure. The city plans to replace the sewer main, as well as install a redundancy to the city’s sewer main system and any necessary upgrades to the lift stations to provide a long-term solution to its aging infrastructure. Ishpeming City manager Craig Cugini explains the urgency behind this project, and how upgrades to the various components of the sewer system will be prioritized.

“So, we’re a 150-year-old town celebrating our 150th birthday year, right? And so, with age also comes age infrastructure,” said Cugini. “So, what we’re doing is we’re trying to work through the worst condition pipes as we know it, and then work our way to the best.”

The city of Ishpeming historically tried to keep its infrastructure costs down and subsequently failed to adequately plan for the future of this aging sewer system.

“The city hasn’t plan for the future and we’re not dissimilar from the rest of the state of Michigan nor the rest of America,” said Cugini. “The goal was at one point to keep costs as low as they can without planning for the future.”

The funding for this project will come from two sources.

“Ultimately what we ended up with was $8 million of grants, no cost to our residents, and $8 million of low-interest loan which has some impact on our customers, but we believe that the savings along the line are probably going to wash mostly in today’s class yet to be seen, but we know that we’ve done it in the most affordable way,” said Cugini.

After an exhaustive application process, the State of Michigan has accepted the application for funding the project based on multiple factors, including need, economic and demographic conditions, and project viability.

“And then they look at every application across the state of Michigan and they see who’s gonna score the best and they give us all points based on our applications and Ishpeming score rose high enough to be funded,” said Cugini. “And because of our state of finances, meaning average household income, and the amount of homes that are at or near the poverty level and other things we get scored in a way where we’re eligible for a 50% grant and some are worse than us and they’re able to get 100% grant but 5050 is the best we could do. Which is really quite good.”

Cugini is quick to point out that individual sewer lines from the main into residents’ homes will still be the responsibility of the homeowner.

“We’re going to make sure their connection is still sounded to our pipe when we put a new pipe in. They are insured that they’re not disconnected,” said Cugini. “But that that lateral from the main to their home is still their responsibility.”

The timeline for this project, although not exact, is expected to be completed well before the funding deadline of December 31, 2026

“Their period of performance is defined that they have to have everything done including a punch list and all things text before the money is no longer live, which is December 31, 2026,” said Cugini. “We would expect they’re going to be done much sooner than that.”

Cugini goes on to say that this ambitious project will attempt to meet its goals with the least amount of disruption to Ishpeming residents and its roadways. Cuigni believes the improvements to the sewer system will make Ishpeming a much better community.

“It’s all tied together; property values go up as a neighborhood as you fix large sections of sewer infrastructure in a neighborhood,” said Cugini.