MANCELONA — Mancelona is upgrading its water lines this summer in a project described as a painful but necessary step to position the community for long-term job growth.
“If you want to attract companies … you need to have the infrastructure to support those companies,” said Andy Hayes, director of the Northern Lakes Economic Alliance. “That includes water and sewer.”
The project, though, means a difficult start to the summer season for at least 12 businesses in Mancelona’s downtown core. The water main replacement translates into closures of key roadways in the village, limiting access to many downtown establishments as construction workers replace 27,000 feet of water mains.
“It is necessary,” said Jim MacQuarrie, administrator for the Mancelona Area Water & Sewer Authority.
MacQuarrie said some of the water lines in the Mancelona area are nearly a century old.The old water lines cause up to a 40 percent loss in water traveling through the lines due to leakage. The upgrades, MacQuarrie said, will improve services to area businesses and also allow the water authority to expand service to those who need authority water due to a trichloroethylene plume from an old manufacturing facility, which has contaminated groundwater in and around Mancelona.
Downtown business owner Doug Derrer of Derrer Oil and Propane said he’s using the summer road closures as an opportunity to put new pumps in at the company’s gas station at 129 W. State St.
“Its definitely going to have a negative impact on business,” said Derrer.”I can’t hardly get through downtown except through the alleys, but it’s stuff that has to be done. Bigger lines and new hydrants.”
Mancelona definitely needs new jobs. The biggest hit to the community came with the shuttering of Dura Automotive, which cost at least 300 workers their livelihoods about five years ago. Officials are optimistic the improved water line infrastructure will help attract new business and industry over the long term.
They encouraged the region’s residents to help support area businesses by visiting despite the downtown construction, which will conclude in the village corridor July 3. Water main replacements on side streets will be done by Aug. 20.
“We’ve lost a lot of business, “ MacQuarrie said. “It (the water line project) will not be a negative.”