Culver eyes new well, water plant, $1.5 million project

Culver's town council heard recommendations for a new well and water treatment plant at its March 12 meeting, though the changes won't come cheap: they're expected to cost in the neighborhood of $1.5 million.
This according to Mark Sullivan and Steve Bender of Commonwealth Engineers, the firm hired to study the condition of Culver's two current wells and water treatment plant, located on South Ohio Street.

Proposed is an addition to the existing plant building, which Bender noted uses equipment 45 to 50 years old, to enclose the present wells, which lie to the north of the old building. The new space would incorporate a horizontal pressure filer, electrical and mechanical and storage rooms for chemical feed, and an office. Some components of the old system can be incorporated into the new, said Bender, such as an aerator and concrete retention tank. A separate storage and maintenance building would be added later.

"You can take some satisfaction knowing (the old plant) served the town well, but it's at the end of its useful life," Bender added.
He said state law requires at least two wells be functional, and that the old wells could stay in service. They've slowly lost production, however, and Commonwealth is suggesting a new well 100 feet off the corner of Davis and Main Streets, on property currently owned by Wade McGee. Test drilling would have to take place at the site to determine if the proposed well would be usable for the 350 gallons per minute utilized by the other wells.

Bender noted tests showed no problems with the groundwater supply at the existing pumps, though he said prior tests of groundwater in the swamp behind the plant were unsuccessful and produced a green slime.
The new building and equipment, said Bender, would cost around $1.23 million, with the new well and well house around $234,000, not counting the cost of purchasing the land at the proposed new well site.

Council members discussed concerns that the property owner at the proposed new well site might not wish to sell, to which Bender replied another location would have to be sought. There would likely be an added cost in that event, since infrastructure would have to be added to carry the water further to the plant for treatment.

It was noted grant dollars may be available to help offset the cost to the town.

Audience member Tom Kearns complimented the council on taking action on the question of Culver's wells, an issue he first raised late last summer at a council meeting.

In other discussion, Sullivan explained to the council that some landowners west of a Culver drainage ditch have expressed concerns if this spring's Culver storm water project takes place, that their ditches would be overloaded in a major rain event.

The project, funded by an $800,000 grant and matching town funds, would resolve decades-old flooding problems on the west end of Lake Shore Drive, near the south section of the Culver Elementary School. The storm drain there is piped to West Jefferson Street and under State Road 17, where it dumps into an open ditch running west.

According to Sullivan, the current pipe at Lake Shore Drive is 15 inches in diameter, and connects to a 24 inch pipe at Jefferson. The county-owned pipe carrying water from there is on the verge of collapse, he said, adding that the project would replace the 15 inch pipe with a 36 inch, and the 24 inch with a 48 inch.

At a recent meeting of the joint Starke and Marshall County drainage board, eight to ten area farmers, most five to eight miles west of Culver along the drainage ditch, expressed their flooding concerns.

Some concern was based, he said, on the incorrect assumption that water previously routed to Lake Maxinkuckee would be routed to the ditch if the project moves ahead, said Sullivan. Instead, the project would only allow already-routed water to move more efficiently.

One way of expediting the process -- important due to tight deadline requirements attached to the grant monies for the project -- would be for the town council to agree to Culver's taking ownership of the county pipe, thus avoiding public hearings and other delays required at the county level.

The council voted to take ownership of the pipe.

Some discussion followed between Sullivan, council members, and an audience member who owns property along the ditch, five miles from Culver.

Sullivan emphasized controlling the flow of the water as it moves west through use of already existing orifices.

"They're in the ditch to control that," he said. "Our goal is to not impact you any more than you're already impacted."

He said two such structures exist 400 and 800 feet out from highway 17, which would be used to control water flow.

Sullivan also said a 10-year storm event -- which produces about two inches of rain per hour -- would result in 89 cubic feet of water per second in the storm drain on Lake Shore Drive.

"The pipe in there now can take it away at five cubic feet per second. It's no wonder we flood down there."

The new pipe would take the water away at 69 cubic feet per second, which could still result in a six inch backup on the street, but "right now it's four or five feet (or backup)...there's a significant problem."

In other discussion, council member Ginny Munroe, noting no town employee has yet stepped forward to sit on Culver's plan commission asked if a stipend could be paid to attend meetings as an incentive.

Other council members, however, noted stipends would have to be offered for other boards and commissions in town, something Munroe said she would be open to considering.

Culver town marshal Wayne Bean volunteered, and was approved by council vote, to fill the plan commission post.

Town manager Dave Schoeff noted the downtown revitalization project will resume with repaving in April; the new fishing pier should be installed at the town park in April as well, he said.

The council approved $25,000 for its annual sidewalk sharing program, in which the town helps underwrite part of the cost of residents' sidewalk replacements. Applications will be accepted starting April 1, it was noted.

Also discussed was the best use of the Culver fire department's 1973 grass truck, recently replaced with a new model. It was suggested by Tom Kearns of the Culver tree commission that existence of the water tank on the truck would make it a helpful asset for the commission.

The council agreed to discuss the matter at its next work session.

Assistant fire chief Ken VanDePutte's request for $1,412 for concrete work on the south side of the fire station was approved by council; the work was part of removal of a planter and bell there, with the bell being incorporated into a new firemen’s' memorial at the northeast corner of State Street and Lake Shore Drive. VanDePutte recognized Porter and his crew for their work south of the station.

Other council actions included approval of Umbaugh and Associates to conduct a water rate study for the town; $4,900 to conduct a water audit to discern internal billing errors for Culver's water customers; $4,300 for new sludge bags at the sewer treatment plant; permission for utilities manager Bob Porter to advertise to hire two summer employees; $2,127 for conditioning of the EMS' Life pack monitors; $3,742.65 for a billing and charting program with mobile applications for the EMS.

Approved was a request for the Union Twp. 4H to hold a car wash at the Culver fire station to aid the local food pantry and generate care packages for military troops, on May 4. Council voted in an emergency services agreement with Pulaski County, conflict of interest statements for employees and council members, and final approval of a contract with Houseal Lavigne of Chicago for the firm to handle Culver's comprehensive plan this year, at a cost not to exceed $75,000.

Lake Maxinkuckee Environmental Council director Kathy Clark said a major project will commence April 26 in which the US Geological Survey, based in Kansas, will take samples from five different places in Lake Maxinkuckee, an endeavor undertaken in 1984 by the LMEC which gave the organization its direction over the next 30 years and led to creation of three wetlands. The studies, then and now, evaluate the lifespan of the lake, but more modern equipment allows researchers to ascertain information about the lake going back 200 to 300 years, she said.

The project will coordinate with high schools around the county and facilitate students observing some of the process, said Clark. It will take two years to get full data back, and she hopes to also utilize video to allow students to learn about the testing process during that period as well.

Clark noted the Culver Educational Foundation is providing $10,000 towards the project, but the major portion of the $180,000 cost of it will be underwritten by the LMEC.

Among items proposed for discussion at a March 26 council work session (slated for 5 p.m.) was the possibility of a joint visitor's center and museum in Culver, as discussed at a meeting earlier that day attended by Munroe and fellow council member Lynn Overmyer. Munroe noted the town has been discussing the future location of the town hall, and hoped for discussion as to whether the two projects could converge. She also suggested council could play a more active role in supporting local merchants, and thanked council members and employees for well wishes, cards, and emails while she was out sick recently.

Council member Bill Githens emphasized work session discussion of open meeting laws and standardizing procedures for board and commission members.

Githens complimented the Culver Redevelopment Commission for a productive recent meeting at which ideas were discussed concerning using CRC funds to help facilitate "distressed properties" being turned into usable space for local businesses.