COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE: Water system will speed up Tar Lake redevelopment

MANCELONA – Tar Lake area redevelopment may come sooner than expected. In May, the Mancelona Area Water and Sewer Authority (MAWSA) got good news: the state Department of Environmental Quality will provide $6 million to fund a new municipal water system for the 80 to 100 property owners affected by the contaminated Tar Lake and Wickes plumes.

MAWSA is comprised of Mancelona and Custer townships and the Village of Mancelona.

The funds will be used in part to pay down debts that the Village and Township of Mancelona owe for past improvements to their water systems, replace two wells and add capacity to the existing water tank on Lescher Hill, according to Gary Knapp, administrator of MAWSA and director of Community Resource Development Inc., the organization spearheading Tar Lake redevelopment.

MAWSA will use another portion of the funds toward the purchase of the existing Shanty Creek/Schuss Mountain Cedar River water system and wastewater treatment plant, presently being used at about 50 percent of capacity.

“All along, we’ve been looking for win-win scenarios,” said Knapp. “The same amount would have been spent on reliability on the northwest end of the system anyway. What we’re doing, rather than putting in new wells and tanks (on that end of the system), is buying new and getting a wastewater treatment plant, too.

“It brings down the cost for all involved. It gives reliability for municipal water users, and it gives the MAWSA sewer for the next three to five years (until the system nears capacity), which speeds up the redevelopment process.”

Negotiations between MAWSA and the resort are on-going. Knapp expects a final deal will be reached within the next one to three months.

Developers have expressed interest in the Tar Lake and adjoining properties, including an industrial park–about 200 acres–in the past, said Knapp. “But the biggest stumbling block is, without infrastructure, they go somewhere else.”

Plans are underway to begin laying sewer and water lines between Mancelona and Schuss in August. Knapp estimates it will be up and running by next spring, “almost immediately,” he says, as opposed to having to wait about three years for funding to even start construction on a new system.

With the $6 million from MDEQ and additional monies from grants MAWSA will be eligible for, due to job creation commitments, Knapp says the authority will only have to borrow between $3 and $4 million at very favorable interest rates for the combined projects.

He says that’s a “break even” in terms of cost, but a time savings that will speed redevelopment of the formerly contaminated property. This is consistent with community feedback gleaned from visioning sessions held over the past two years.

Kimberlee Roth owns Outword, LLC, Professional Writing, PO Box 3314, Traverse City, MI, 49685; 231.938.0640 (phone) 231.938.2933 (fax);