Onaway celebrates a tremendous run of projects

by Peter Jakey

Managing Editor

Onaway city officials toasted two government agencies that made the M-68 reconstruction project last summer possible.

City vehicles and equipment purchased through United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development (USDA) programs lined the Onaway Courthouse lawn Wednesday afternoon for the brief ceremony in front of the courthouse entrance.

USDA AREA specialist Blake Smith stands in front of city vehicles his agency helped assist with funding. He spoke for a few moments in front of the courthouse and is pleased with the results of the M-68 project. (Photo by Peter Jakey)



Officials from the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and USDA joined in the celebration.

Back in 2009, the city approached MDOT to partner on the reconstruction of M-68 through town. The City had received a $1.3 million grant/load from USDA to rebuild the failing 110-year-old water main that was under the driving line. The road had not had a major rehabilitation since the 1950s.

City manager Joe Hefele said, “I been taught that once you complete a project, before you move on to the next one, it’s important to stop, take a deep breath and to celebrate the fact that you were successful.”

He said everyone involved in helping complete the project was invited to the event, “to tell them thank you. It is important.”

Hefele said they now have a much more efficient water system and more “user-friendly” downtown.

“We look at this is as the cap on a tremendous run of projects over the last decade,” he said.

“Onaway is a completely different town than it was 10 years ago,” said mayor Gary Wregglesworth. “That’s $16 million invested in town and that breaks down to $160,000 per person. We never, ever could have done it on our own.”

Doug Wilson, Alpena Transportation Service Center manager, said there were many cost savings realized with the project  “because the city’s water main grant didn’t cover the cost to rebuild the roadway, and MDOT would have had to pay to rebuild the water main and move it from under the roadway to the outside shoulder.”

He added that by partnering on the project, it reduced the impacts to property and business owners.

“Working with the city of Onaway we were also able to secure a successful enhancement application which allowed us to give a facelift to the downtown corridor with new lighting and landscaping, as well as upgraded ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) ramps.” He also commended the engineering firm C2AE and contractor M & M Excavating for their work.

Blake Smith, USDA area specialist, said Onaway always has stepped forward “to pledge their extra reserves to entertain these projects.”

All the members of the city commission, as well as local federal and state government representatives attended the event.

Residents and representatives of businesses affected by the project also were there.