DPW to hold cleanup event as work on new building continues

Plans underway for water meter replacements

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published May 12, 2021

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STERLING HEIGHTS — The Department of Public Works recently hosted several spring cleaning events for disposing of waste you can’t put at the curb, and soon there will be another one.

Residents can bring waste including soil, rocks, lumber, paint, car tires and more to the DPW headquarters, located at 7200 18 Mile Road, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. May 15. The city’s private waste contractor, Green for Life Environmental, does not accept these items during normal pickup, so  this is an opportunity to dispose of them properly.

The DPW hosted similar events last month, including a paper-shredding event April 10, a hazardous household waste event April 17 and an electronics recycling event April 24.

“We had outstanding participation at all three events,” said Michael Moore, the DPW director. “We believe there was a pent-up demand due to the stay-at-home order. Many residents were doing some remodeling, some cleaning, and so they had gathered paint cans and other materials, and now they’re clearing out the garage of all the hazardous waste.”

Moore also wished to remind residents that, with seasonal collection of yard waste underway, GFL crews tend to work longer hours to service every stop. If you believe your yard waste, refuse or recycling has been missed for pickup, call the DPW at (586) 446-2440.

As residents clean out their homes, the DPW has some housekeeping business of its own. The main office is currently undergoing a $25 million expansion and renovation. The first phase recently finished, constructing a new building at the rear of the original structure. That work began in September 2019 and would have finished sooner if not for the pandemic.

Now, at the start of May, demolition has begun on the old building, which will be rebuilt to more modern standards. The entire project is expected to be finished by late fall. The staff will work in the new building while the old one is reconstructed.

“The original building was deteriorating due to age,” Moore said. “It clearly did not have the desired technology to operate at the level we want to operate at. There was not enough storage, and we didn’t have adequately sized training rooms. The amount of funds that would’ve been used to repair the old building and bring it up to current standards outweighed the cost of simply building a new structure from scratch.”

The DPW has a range of responsibilities within the city. It maintains the roads and sewers, ensures the safe delivery of water, manages city-owned vehicles and equipment, and more. While GFL directly handles the city’s refuse and recycling, the DPW coordinates and oversees that operation.

One major project currently in the works at the DPW is a citywide water meter replacement program funded by the increased water and sewer rate that will go into effect July 1. The project will cost less than $12 million, and it will take two to three years to complete. At press time, the DPW was still crafting its proposal to the City Council, which will consider it for approval at the end of May.

“There are many logistics that need to be worked out with this project before we can begin,” Moore said.

Those finer details include the order in which the city will approach every resident and business owner in the city so that they can install the new meters. Residents will also now receive monthly billing for water use instead of quarterly billing.

The new meters will allow for real-time monitoring by the homeowner or business owner via their computer, tablet or smartphone. It will raise red flags in the event of a leak or other inefficiency.

“They will have the ability to look back and say, ‘I was on vacation that day — how did I use X gallons of water?’ Or if they’re a snowbird in Florida and their house in Sterling Heights is using water, they can receive an alert notifying them of that and see how much water was used,” Moore said.

Michael Taylor, the mayor of Sterling Heights, said in a statement that the DPW is to be commended for its efforts. He said more cleanup days could be added in the near future.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the amazing job our DPW has been doing this past year,” Taylor said. “Not only were they able to keep customary services like street sweepers, yard waste and trash pickup on schedule during the pandemic, they were also able to quickly make some public health adjustments to the recycling center, allowing for its continued operation.

“As a result of the pandemic, this year’s spring cleanup events like household hazardous waste and shred days have been a huge hit,” he said. “DPW has been able to service over a thousand vehicles within just a few hours on these days. And due to their popularity, we are looking into the potential to host additional cleanup days in 2021.”