Mayor hires former city engineer

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published March 27, 2013

Van Havermaat

WARREN — James A. Van Havermaat knew the city’s infrastructure well when he worked as Warren’s top municipal engineer under former Mayor Ronald Bonkowski.

Current Mayor Jim Fouts is looking to tap into that knowledge again as Warren continues to plan ambitious improvements to its roads and sewer system.

Fouts named Van Havermaat Warren’s new city engineer during his State of the City speech March 13.

Van Havermaat, a resident of Warren, is a registered professional engineer, licensed as both a land surveyor and a civil engineer. He also holds licenses for wastewater and industrial wastewater treatment plant operations.

He served previously under Bonkowski as Warren’s city engineer from June 1988 to November 1995 and later established his own company, NorthStar Engineering, LLC. NorthStar Engineering specializes in civil engineering, land surveying and construction administration.

“Basically, I was advised that the position was open and that I should apply. I threw in my résumé,” Van Havermaat said of his return to Warren’s City Hall. “It’s obviously a challenge that I look forward to. There’s a lot to do. This will be an interesting challenge.”

The city’s engineering work in the immediate future will include ongoing efforts to alleviate basement flooding resulting from storm water infiltration into the sanitary sewer system. Officials said the situation is most pressing along the sewer line that runs north and south on the east side of Warren.

City engineers and hired consultants have proposed the construction of relief sewers running east to west along 10 Mile, 12 Mile, 13 Mile and Martin roads to capture and move increased flow during the heaviest rains as part of an overall plan that would tap into the Oakland-Macomb Interceptor.

Other engineering work looms in the administration of funds generated by Warren’s first-ever residential streets millage. The five-year 2.1-mill tax increase was approved by voters in November 2011 and thus wasn’t in place when Van Havermaat led the Engineering Division previously.

“I think it’s great,” he said of the millage. “The city is showing its age. Most of Warren was developed back in the 1960s. A lot of the streets and things, they’ve been in place for 50 years. That’s way beyond the normal life expectancy of concrete, in general.

“It’s a needed program. It’s great that the mayor was able to get a millage to do it,” Van Havermaat said.

Fouts served as a member of the Warren City Council during Van Havermaat’s previous tenure as a city engineer. The mayor said he “at times probably disagreed with him” but that he always respected Van Havermaat as a “consummate professional.”

“He’s just got an extensive background and experience. He lives in Warren. He lives within walking distance,” Fouts said. “He’s just a high-qualified, consummate professional who will give the citizens every penny’s worth that he can.”

Fouts said both the compensation level and a start date for Van Havermaat were still being worked out at press time March 21.

Van Havermaat will succeed acting city engineers Donna Dordeski and Todd Schaedig. Both were hired by him and will remain with the city at other posts when he returns to lead the department.