Team formed to help the Two Lakes Sewer Authority disseminate information and obtain grants


MANISTEE COUNTY – The Two Lakes Sewer Authority is now working with a team of specialists to improve communications and fund the development of a project that would create a sanitary wastewater collection system shared by the townships of Onekama, Pleasanton and Bear Lake , and the village of Bear Lake.

The Two Lakes Sewer Authority was formed in 2017 to determine the feasibility of a shared sewer system to protect Portage and Bear Lakes.

The communications and fund development team was assembled with funding from the Manistee County Community Foundation. The team has two goals: to help inform and educate the community with information about the sewer project, and to seek additional grant funds for the construction of the system.

The team was recommended in a resolution supported unanimously by the members of the authority who represent each of the municipalities concerned: Judy Girven, of the Township of Pleasanton; Marla Evans, of the village of Bear Lake; Jeff Harthun of the Township of Bear Lake; and Authority Chairman David Meister of Onekama Township.

Onekama resident Tim Ervin helped the Sewer Authority select the team members.

“I’ve done a lot of projects in the area – from County of Manistee, to the Traverse area, to County Antrim and so on, and a lot of what I’ve done depends on somehow sort of community outreach and also fund development, ”Ervin said.“ I’ve had the benefit of working with a lot of people who are really good at both fields. I think they will serve their purpose in this case. “

Ervin said he was involved in the plans for the Portage Lake Watershed of Onekama Forever and the Great Bear Watershed of Bear Lake.

“In both cases, the watershed plans, developed through a ton of community participation, recognized wastewater treatment as a high priority for the protection and preservation of water quality in both lakes.” , did he declare.

Ervin said the team is made up of four separate people “playing different roles in different magnitudes,” as opposed to a company. Two will work on fund development and two will focus on outreach and communication.

“We did it that way so that we could be really criticized for supporting the project,” he said. “For example, no funding is going to go to overhead or anything like that – it goes directly to delivering the services that the project needs.”

Once a funding application is deemed complete by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the federal agency has 45 days to submit a proposal to the Sewer Authority regarding grant and / or loan funding. for the project, which is expected to cost over $ 40 million.

Jeff Harthun, who represents the Township of Bear Lake on the Sewerage Authority, said the team would provide much needed information to local residents.

“We need help and support to share the facts on why this system is important to protect our two priceless lakes, as well as to support property values ​​and economic development,” he said. . “The importance of the project was underscored by recent flooding where homes were in danger and several septic systems failed, and the COVID pandemic has been devastating for many and an unprecedented source of anxiety and distraction for all. world, slowing the momentum of the project.

The Manistee County Community Foundation received $ 35,000 in grants for the communications and fund development project through its participation in the Great Lakes One Partnership, the Public Sector Consultants company providing the Great Lakes Protection Fund grant.

“The Portage Lake Watershed Plan and the Grand Bear Watershed Plan are Manistee County water protection strategies that we have supported for years,” said Laura Heintzelman, President and Chief Executive Officer. director of the Manistee County Community Foundation. “This funding will provide education and awareness on the need for a sewage system and the implications of the app developed for review by the USDA-RD. If the team is able to identify additional sources of grant funding, it will help offset that part of the proposed project for debt support.

Ervin said the team will work to find out what communities know and don’t know about the project by contacting community members to find out what questions need to be answered. The team will then reach out to the appropriate entities to answer these questions and find ways to disseminate this information to the public.

“Especially in rural areas, there is no one size fits all for communication. Some people read the newspaper every day, some don’t. Many people have the Internet, others may not have it. “said Ervin. “One of the challenges we’ve already faced is figuring out all the ways that people learn things and get information and try to present it in all of those ways to the community. For those who get it on the internet, it’s easy to do. Hard copies for people who want them mailed to them or to pick them up, it’s easy to do.

“But then we have to find other ways to raise awareness – especially for people who may be gone, as some people live in the county seasonally or go traveling,” he continued. “We want to find every way possible to make sure that we put the questions, the answers and the facts in everyone’s hands.”

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