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March Industry Review


Tech News

In Michigan, spring marks the return of our state bird, the beginning of major league baseball, and pothole season on our roadways. Potholes form primarily in the late winter and early spring months when melting snow saturates the soil around and beneath our roadways. This moist soil undergoes cycles of freezing during the night and thawing during warmer days. The associated expansion and contraction is the driving force behind pothole formation. During this time, the moist ground makes the road susceptible to damage from heavy vehicles. For more information on the formation of a pothole, and how good road design seeks to reduce this problem visit the Michigan Department of Transportation’s page on potholes.

Patching potholes is a stop-gap measure intended to create a safe driving surface for the public and protect/retain as much of the underlying material as possible. Winter patching of potholes began as a way of getting through until spring. But with tight budgets and limited manpower, these temporary fixes are often required to last much longer.

Patching potholes in the winter and early spring is a difficult thing to do. During this time, roads are wet and covered in salt and the patch material can’t adhere well. Hot- mix asphalt is hard to come by at this time as well. Due to these conditions, the “Throw-and-Roll” method is often used. Patch material is shoveled into potholes where it is quickly rolled before reopening to traffic. Due to limited time and budget, many agencies may not using a roller, opting instead to use the “Throw-and-Go” method, which uses traffic to compact their patch material in lieu of a roller or plate compactor. Anyone who has endured the clinks and clangs of loose “cold-patch” hitting the undercarriage of their vehicle has experienced the less appealing consequences of the “Throw-and-Go” patch.

If it can wait until later in the spring, “Semi-Permanent” method of pothole repair is a higher quality fix. This involves removal of compromised pavement, cleaning and preparation of the substrate, placing and compacting patching material, and sealing of the joint at the perimeter of the patch if time and budget allow. A spray injection method is also available, but this is typically only used by larger departments with the money and resources to purchase the specialized equipment.

Whichever method is used, it doesn’t change the fact that the life expectancy of patches is typically measured in weeks instead of years. Patching potholes is a losing battle. In the end, patch material typically winds up on roadway shoulders, gutters, and storm drains.

Ultimately, patching potholes – even using best practices – is not a long-term pavement preservation technique. In the short term, public agencies that maintain the roadways may need to select the most cost effective means of providing a safe surface for public use, which in some cases, can mean “Throw-and-Go.” But that needs to be done with an eye toward the long-term solutions of asset management and pavement preservation that are ultimately the techniques that will solve Michigan’s roadway problems.

For more information on pavement preservation and rehabilitation techniques, contact Abonmarche at


Money Matters

The Department of Natural Resources has assigned a new grant coordinator for regions 7, 8, and 9. Chip Kosloski took over for Jule Stafford, who retired late last year. His contact information is (517) 284-5965 and

The deadline for many DNR grants is coming up on April 1.

The Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs revised their application deadline for the fiscal year of 2016 from October 1 to June 1. Jeff Garrett is MCACA’s new community and regional development coordinator, with the Capital Improvement Program grant management among his new duties. His contact information is


Policy News

This spring, Michigan’s years of poor road policy will rear its ugly head in the form of miles and miles of potholes. The ballot language for Prop 1 has been approved, so voters will have a chance to approve or decline the series of bills that would raise the sales/use tax from 6% to 7%, increase the portion of the use tax that goes toward the School Aid Fund and direct more funding toward road repairs, among other things.

Lawmakers are cobbling together alternatives to Prop 1 that attempt to bypass the whole issue of increased revenue by redirecting funding from other sources. This is understandable, if misguided. Everyone would like for our roads to be paid for without Michigan’s residents having to pay more. But Prop 1 was created out of a hard-fought compromise that was finally accomplished years after everyone already agreed that something had to be done. It’s an unfortunate fact – especially for the Prop 1 supporters tasked with selling the proposal to voters – that after a real compromise, there’s no one left who really feels like running a victory lap.

As citizen’s and voters we should always be open to the best policy option available, however the reality is we need to stop kicking the can down the street on infrastructure funding.  A state with Michigan’s history and potential should not be last in the nation in per capita spending for infrastructure.



In 2010, Abonmarche developed a plan for a client to maintain and repair the City’s roads. The plan reversed the trend of fixing a municipality’s worst roads first, and instead used the approach of maintaining those roads still in good condition. “Worst first” maintenance techniques generally include mill and fill, overlays, and reconstruction – in other words, expensive heavy maintenance techniques. These techniques concentrate a municipality’s funds on a limited number of sites, and meanwhile there isn’t enough funding left over for proper maintenance of other roads. Because it becomes more expensive to maintain and repair a road the more deteriorated it becomes, Abonmarche’s approach targeted roads before they reached a critical distress point. Our technique was able to prolong road life using new maintenance technologies such as crack filling, slurry sealing, ultrathin overlays, and hot-in-place. This allowed the roads to be maintained in good condition and the City was given the breathing room to reserve the use of heavy maintenance techniques for a time when other funding sources became available.

Using Abonmarche’s plan, the City was able to restore three times as many streets with these new methods over the traditional overlay methods.


February’s Industry Review


Tech News

Where is your City putting its snow? The answer to that question will affect your environment long after spring arrives. Snow accumulates pollutants from the atmosphere, motor vehicles, and roadways, and it hangs onto that through snow melt, at which point the contaminants filter into surface water and groundwater.

It’s important to choose snow dumping sites carefully because snow releases contaminants at different times during the snow melt, further complicating the scenario. Traditional warm weather best management practices are not as successful because of ice, water temperature, highly concentrated pollution, and lack of biological activity. The variability of snow character and repeated freeze-thaw cycles create very heterogeneous snowpack, with many different paths available for melt water to move through. This is only exacerbated when an early spring rain hits lingering snow piles, mobilizing the soluble constituents and associated contaminants. The melt then runs over urban surfaces, continuing to pick up debris left over from the winter.

A good snow dump site is away from surface water and has more than two feet of top soil above the water table. Parking lots are an often-used snow dump site, but the parking lot needs to be in a location where the melt water from those sites can be adequately filtered before reaching surface water or groundwater. If the snow has been heavily treated it can pose a threat to water quality. Another consideration that needs to be taken into account is that, while the first part of the snow melt usually soaks into the ground, at some point in the melt sequence, the ground can become saturated. That turns a pervious portion of the watershed into an essentially impervious surface, causing all additional melt to run off.

Some good options for snow dump site locations are wastewater treatment plant yards, city-owned unused lots, or parking lots surrounded by large areas of topsoil. Just remember, wherever you choose – choose carefully.


Money Matters

MiRecGrants has opened its 2015 application cycle, and applications for grants through the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, Land and Water Conservation Fund and Recreation Passport can now be uploaded. The due date for those grant programs is April 1.

Funding was also announced for Volunteer Stream Monitoring grants through the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Up to $50,000 is available annually and the application is due February 12.


Policy News

Michigan’s water is one of its most vital resources and so water management policy needs to be a focus for our elected officials and environmental experts, in order to ensure that this resource continues to be both an economic driver and a key quality of life component for the state’s residents.

Our state is already beginning to address this important issue, with nearly $4 million included in the state’s 2015 budget for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality implement water management strategies, monitor beaches for elevated bacteria levels and protect wetlands. In order to make up for wetlands lost to development, the budget sets aside $3 million for “mitigation banks,” artificial wetlands that will fulfill the same role in the ecosystem as the wetlands that were destroyed. The budget also contains $5 million for drinking water upgrades.

The Stormwater, Asset Management and Wastewater (SAW) Program is now in its second year and has proven to be of great benefit to communities for long range water resource planning. This year’s budget includes $97 million to continue the program.

If Michigan keeps investing in protecting and managing our water resources, not only will the state be able to embrace the spirit of its Pure Michigan campaign, which has built a great sense of place for our state and has attracted thousands of new residents and visitors annually, it will continue to be economic driver into our future.

Michigan’s freshwater resources are going to face new pressures in the future. Population increases worldwide will put demands on all freshwater resources, as more drinking water and water for irrigation will be pulled from the same sources. In the U.S., Midwest agriculture is moving north due to improved genetically modified seeds and climate change. Michigan can benefit from this increased agricultural demand, but only if we continue to advocate for strong policy and investments in our natural resources.


Project Highlight

Abonmarche is currently working on a Water Reliability Study for the Village of Paw Paw. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality requires these studies in order for municipalities to remain in compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act. As part of the study, Abonmarche inventoried existing water capacity and conducted an analysis of current and future needs, system loss, deficiencies, and other conditions. Abonmarche will develop five- and 20-year water use projections, and complete hydraulic modeling for a variety of scenarios.


January’s Industry Review


A guide to what’s new and what’s changing in the engineering, architecture, and surveying industries, and how it affects the built environment.


Tech News

Winters are always hard on roads, with plows scarring pavement and salt slowly corroding it. But plowing and de-icing treatments are even tougher on certain kinds of pavement than on others.

Pervious pavements can be affected by salt and sand differently than your run-of-the-mill asphalt, and so can require different maintenance techniques.

Over the years, salt has gained popularity as the go-to deicing method for most cities, though some cities still prefer sand. Salt, however, is best for porous surfaces, because sand can plug the surface’s pores and needs to be vacuumed out. Porous surfaces should be vacuumed at least one to four times a year. The best times are before and after winter, to clear the debris caused by the fall and winter seasons. Using sand during the winter season means porous surfaces will have to be vacuumed much more often.

But there are downsides to salt as well. We usually think of pervious pavement and surfaces as helpful products, because they improve runoff water quality and increase infiltration rates. But when you add salt to the mix, it seeps into the pervious surfaces and ultimately the groundwater. Because there are no natural methods of breaking down, taking up, or removing salt from the environment, it just accumulates. Salt is also expensive, and it can damage the environment and eat away at roads and vehicles. The same can be said for other commonly used deicing chemicals.

Anyone who’s been relying on salt, but would prefer to rely on something less corrosive, will be interested in the research being done at Washington State University on environmentally-friendly deicers. Researchers are looking into biodegradable alternatives like beet pulp, tomato juice, and barley residue from distilled vodka. They’re also looking at new types of concrete, including some that don’t break down as quickly under salt and chemicals, and even some that contain nano- and mirco-sized particles that create a surface barrier, preventing the concrete from bonding with ice and snow. Easy plowing without chemicals, salt, or sand? That’s a technology we could get behind.


New in Policy

Winter has arrived and it doesn’t look like it will go easy on Michigan’s roads. Everyone seems to agree that something has to be done to improve the state’s infrastructure, but the question remains, as always, how are we going to pay for it?

The state’s legislators decided that question should go to voters, who will weigh in on whether to approve a sales tax increase in May. If voters approve it, the state sales tax would increase by 1%, from 6% to 7%. Governor Snyder’s plan would repeal the sales tax on gas and replace it with a new motor fuels tax.

Tax increases are never an easy pill for voters to swallow, but the month of May – also known around these parts as “pot-hole season” – could prove to be a better argument in favor of the increase than any pro-tax hike commercial the measure’s supporters could run. Already, opposition groups are gearing up to push against the increase.

We’d like to see something done sooner rather than later – Michigan’s cars will thank us.


Money Matters

Now that the new year has swept in, a new round of grant funding will once again be available. Some upcoming deadlines to keep in mind:

  • February 28 – Rural Business Enterprise Grant application due date.
  • April 1- Michigan DNR Recreation Grant Programs due date. They include the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF), Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), and Recreation Passport Grants.

One item to remember; the Great Lakes Fisheries Trust Fund will not offer a grant cycle for 2015.


Project Highlight

Botham Avenue, St. Joseph, Michigan

Here’s a tip for the new year: When possible, bid early in the year. Abonmarche saw the benefits of that strategy firsthand on a City of St. Joseph project. The City needs about 1,300 feet of sanitary sewer, water main, and storm sewer replaced on a section of Botham Avenue. When Abonmarche was brought in to handle the surveying, design, and construction management, we let the City know that if the project, which was scheduled to bid in May 2015, was moved up by four months, they would see better bids. We successfully completed the first stages of the project, including the bidding, and received highly favorable bids. Normally on a project like this one, asphalt is the pavement material of choice. But based on the longevity of the material and taking price into consideration, the City went with concrete. Construction is set to begin in June, with the project scheduled to be completed in October.


December’s Industry Review

A guide to what’s new and what’s changing in the engineering, architecture, and surveying industries, and how it affects the built environment.

Tech News

The word “green” has come to represent many things it can mean environmentally conscious or refer to an abundance of outdoor recreational activities but for many municipalities that are considering sustainable initiatives, green starts to look like one thing – lots of money. But it doesn’t have to. A city can get high marks in sustainability by creating new parks or LEED-certified buildings, but there are other, more efficient and incremental ways to be environmentally conscious that can alleviate tension on existing infrastructure while going about the regular maintenance of city services.

One of the most pressing initiatives, especially for coastal communities, is water resource management. While it isn’t a very visible green activity, the benefits are certainly tangible. Prioritizing water resource management helps ensure potable and recreational water quality and quantity well into the future. Many cities are already looking at ways to maintain and improve their aging storm water systems and there are ways to integrate green infrastructure in conjunction with existing gray infrastructure to establish a unified network of sustainable, cost-effective benefits at scale and over time.

Abonmarche will soon be releasing an informational guide that will outline ways to implement sustainable design in your next project.


New In Policy

No policy issue has been more in the news during the last couple weeks than the poor condition and funding strategy for our state’s infrastructure. And speaking of “green”, our road funding policy and strategy, or lack thereof, is having a big impact on the green in our environment and the green of our wallet. Simply put, there is not enough money being generated to support our infrastructure system. Our current need just to maintain the system we have is approximately $1.6 billion more annually and that need continues to increase at an alarming rate of over $100 million per year. If Michigan motorists paid $120 more annually, our roads and bridges could be maintained at a high and safe level. The average Michigander pays $357 annually in unnecessary repairs to their vehicles due to poor roads (source: TRIP January 2014 report). Replacing tires, struts, shocks, etc becomes more frequent as our roads and bridges get worse. By investing a little more in our infrastructure, everyone would see less damage to their vehicles and less need for repairs. The state and Michigan’s drivers will see more savings by spending some money now rather than spending much more money later.


Money Matters

A reminder to communities considering new waterways projects: Starting in 2015, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is going to require that communities have their approved, five-year recreation plan on file with DNR Grants Management in order to apply for waterways grant funding. Many communities already have their five-year recreation plan approved by the DNR, but may not have realized that their water resources and water recreation goals also need to be reflected in the plan.


Project Highlight

Whirlpool Campus, Benton Harbor, Michigan

Whirlpool’s campus on Main Street in Benton Harbor serves as the company’s headquarters for its North American operations and is a fantastic example of what can be accomplished when environmental goals are incorporated into a project’s planning stages. Thanks to the project’s design and the use of green materials, the campus was awarded a LEED Platinum certification. Approximately half of the LEED points necessary for platinum certification were the result of site work performed by Abonmarche.


This Month’s Kudos

Congratulations to our partners at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation who recently won the Urban Land Institute of Michigan’s Real Estate Achievement Award for being a “real catalyst” in Michigan. The MEDC has been a leader at making investments in our state’s communities’ infrastructure helping to create a sense of place.






Do you have questions about smoke testing?


As Abonmarche’s project engineers prepare to start smoke testing, we’ve heard from several people with questions about the procedure. If you have received this flyer, it means Abonmarche will be performing smoke tests in your area. For those who may have concerns or are curious about the procedure, we’ve put together this list of frequently asked questions. If you would like to speak with an Abonmarche staff member, please call 269.927.2295.

Q: What is a smoke test?

 A: A smoke test is a way to test the sanitary sewer system for cracks, leaks or improper tie-ins. The goal of the test is to make sure sanitary sewer waste is processed at a treatment facility and surface water is allowed to drain separately into the storm sewers. If both are draining together, it can overwhelm the sanitary systems’ capacity and allow sewage back up into homes.

The test involves inspection crews pulling off a manhole cover and blowing a non-toxic smoke into the sanitary system lines with a large fan. The crews will watch for the smoke to exit and identify whether it indicates a problem that needs correction.

If you’d like more information about the smoke testing product, please read this statement by the manufacturer.

 Q: I saw smoke in my basement/on my property- what does this mean?

A: Smoke in your basement could mean a few things:

  • The most common incidence of smoke is simply caused by a drain trap that has dried up and is allowing the smoke to enter the home. If you pour some water down that drain, it will refill the trap and prevent the smoke from entering.
  •  It could possibly indicate a crack or cross connection in your sanitary system. Please call Abonmarche at 269.927.2295 and speak to either the Project Engineer listed on your door tag, or leave a message with the main desk if you see smoke rising from unusual places, like a driveway or your yard. Please include your name, address, phone, and description of the issue so an Abonmarche employee can contact you.

Q: The notice says I have to pour water down my basement drains, or cover them with a wet towel. I have limited mobility and can’t go in my basement. What should I do?

A: If you cannot make it down to your basement, please do not worry. The water and towel are simply recommended precautions to keep smoke to a minimum. It is not required. Any smoke that may enter is non-toxic and will dissipate on its own.

 Q: Is this smoke dangerous?

A: No, there is no danger to you from the smoke. It is non-toxic, non-staining, creates no fire hazard and is white to gray in color.  In most cases, you will not see any smoke enter your home. If you do, opening doors and windows will let the smoke dissipate more quickly, but it will eventually dissipate on its own. In some cases, there may be irritation in your throat, but leaving the area and ventilation should relieve symptoms.

Q: Do I need to be home for the smoke test?

A: No.

 Q: If there is a problem detected with my sanitary hook up, how will I know?

A: You will receive a follow up letter from the City addressing your next steps.


Abonmarche land surveyors go the extra mile to find your true corner

When Abonmarche staff does land surveys, we always try to track back to the original survey documents. Often, there’s not much to go back to and we have to work from scratch.

But in a recent case, when Abonmarche was hired to mark the boundary of a 40-acre parcel in Manistee County, Abonmarche staff knew there was a historical survey marker out there – they just had to slog through a swamp to get to it.

It turns that then-Manistee County Surveyor G. Baker set pointed wooden stakes in the four corners of the property in 1915, using only a 66-foot-long steel chain and a compass.

The Abonmarche survey crew, made up of Professional Surveyor Craig Stapley and Survey Technicians Robert Olmstead and Patrick Ziehm, traversed the swamp and began digging in the spot Baker had noted. Before long, the crew pulled the nearly 100-year-old stake from the swampy water, which had preserved it over all those decades. The stake was removed and replaced with a monument.

Other surveyors had overlooked Baker’s work and had set their own corner some distance north of the true corner. Because Baker’s survey was the closest known survey to the original survey, it’s held as the boundary over subsequent surveys.

It takes more work – and the occasional hike through a mosquito infested swamp – to do it the right way, but at Abonmarche we think it’s worth it.

The corner post placed by G. Baker.


Because of public works…

When you turn the hot water tap on your sink, hot water comes
out. When you set your garbage on the curb, by the morning, it’s gone. Traffic
eases, sewage flows and daily life ticks on. Normally, we don’t have to think
too much about it.

But this week is National Public Works Week, when we’re
asked to take a minute to appreciate the hard workers who make sure all those
life necessities operate like clockwork – so that we have the luxury of safe,
clean communities.

So head on over to the American Public Works Association’s
and check out the important ways public works impacts your life.


TAP is the new TE

Abonmarche was recently featured in an online article posted by the Michigan Municipal League pertaining to our streetscape projects in communities.   Streetscapes can have a significant effect on how people perceive and interact with their community.  If streetscapes are safe and inviting to pedestrians, people are more likely to utilize this public space.  They contribute to aesthetic quality, economic activity, health, and social cohesion in communities, not just its mobility.

Last year, Congress passed a new transportation bill, commonly referred to as MAP-21.  Under this legislation the Transportation Enhancement (TE) Program with some changes became the Transportation Alternatives Program, or TAP.  Similar to the TE program, TAP funding is designated for specific activities that enhance the intermodal
transportation system and provide safe alternative transportation options under
the following categories:

  • Facilities for pedestrians and bicyclists, including traffic calming and other safety
  • Inventory, control, or removal of outdoor advertising
  • Safe routes for non-drivers
  • Vegetation management practices in transportation rights of way
  • Conversion and use of abandoned railroad corridors for trails
  • Archaeological activities
  • Environmental mitigation activities
  • Turnouts, overlooks, and viewing areas
  • Historic preservation and rehabilitation of historic transportation facilities
  • Boulevards in the right of way of former interstates or other divided highways

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) allocated approximately $16.5 million in TAP funding available for Michigan communities for 2013.  County road commissions, cities, villages, regional transportation authorities, transit agencies, public land agencies and tribal governments are eligible to apply.  Here’s an example of the impact streetscape enhancements can have on a community:

Contact us for additional information on the benefits of the TAP program in your community or go to our website for other streetscape projects we’ve completed in our continued commitment to improving communities.


MDEQ Expanding Dredging Permit Categories

The coastal assets of the Great Lakes, including harbors and major rivers, are vital to the commercial and recreational activities throughout the region, in addition to being the major economic driver for many waterfront communities.  With water levels in Lake Michigan and Lake Huron at new-record lows, leaders and officials across the state are collaborating on how to best meet the needs of communities facing the resulting challenges.  To address the increased need for dredging across the state, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) is expanding the expedited permitting categories for dredging.  The procedural changes focus on expanding the definitions of project and permitting categories, changing material testing requirements, and amending cubic yard limitations – all of which are intended to accelerate the permitting process and expand the eligibility of waterways.

Abonmarche has been assisting waterfront communities to improve and manage these vital resources for over thirty years and understands the critical impact water resources have on local cultural, economies, and quality of life.  With the 2013 boating season quickly approaching, it’s not too soon to start proactively addressing the potential challenges that may result from the lowering water levels of the Great Lakes.  Whether it’s conducting bathymetric surveys, preparing and obtaining dredging permits, or assisting with bid document, Abonmarche will work with you to ensure you’re well positioned for the upcoming season. Contact us to discuss further how Abonmarche can best serve your community and for additional information pertaining to the changes to dredge permitting.


MDEQ to hold Water and Wastewater Asset Management Seminars

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) will be holding four (4) seminars across the state to provide City and elected officials, DPW directors, certified operators, and consultants information about DEQ updates, as well as options and implementation strategies for asset management.

In addition to becoming a requirement on WWTP NPDES permits, asset management plans and programs are going to be a major component of the SAW grant and loan program that the DEQ will be implementing this fall.  Asset management is becoming a focal point of the DEQ because of its direct impact on public health and safety, the environment, economic development, and overall quality of life within a community.

More information on the seminars, including their locations and how to register, can be found at this link.

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