Clare approves resolution to clean Little Tobacco Drain

By Pat Maurer
Correspondent

Clare County Drain Commissioner Carl Parks and Isabella County Drain Commissioner Richard Jakubiec were at the Clare City Council meeting Monday evening to discuss the need to “clean the Little Tobacco Drain.

City Manager Ken Hibl reported that In 2005 a preliminary engineering study was done to determine the need and probably costs of cleaning the drain which runs through both Clare and Isabella Counties. Although a project overview and estimated costs were presented in 2006, because there was no assurance that the project would stop the flooding problem several times every year and the costs, which he described as “exorbitant.”

“Since that time,” Hibl reported, flooding in the City along the Tobacco Drain has increased,” and now with the completion of a project cleaning a drain (the Duncan Drain) that feeds into the Little Tobacco, the amount of water could double.

Without the project, he reported, “FEMA will likely deny/disapprove any future claims for damage due to flooding, even if property owners have flood insurance,” because “governing entities” are aware of the necessity of completing the drain project but haven’t done so.

Some residents’ homes and business buildings along the drain are already in jeopardy, Hibl said.

The project, with a cost estimate of $1.5 million could be funded if a majority of property owners affected by the drain petition for it, or if a petition resolution is passed by the governing body – the City Commission.

Property owners, the Michigan Department of Transportation, Railroad, Clare City, Clare County, Isabella County and Grant Township would be assessed for the cost of the project.

City Treasurer Steven Kingsbury said the City would pay 10 percent, the Counties each 10 percent, MDOT would be assessed $75,000 and property owners would be assessed according to the amount of property affected by the drain and if they would benefit from it.

Commissioner Tom Koch asked what property owners could expect [to pay]. The assessment roll is not available publicly yet, Kingsbury said. The assessment district includes property along the drain as well as property that drains into the Little Tobacco.

Commissioner Bob Bonham, who is the City’s former Department of Public Works Superintendent, said, “I think something needs to be done.”

Jakubiec said “It has become a public safety issue for structures and bridges and would also protect the safety of the public at large.

Parks said they could consider a 20-year bond, which would spread the cost out over a long period.
The City Commission approved a resolution to initiate the assessment process 3-1 with Koch voting no on the matter. Mayor Pat Humphrey was not at the meeting.

In another matter, despite property owners objections, the City voted 4-0 that improvements to Brookwood and Briarwood Streets are necessity and to direct the completion of an assessment roll.

The improvement, which would pave a portion of the gravel road, will cost approximately $85,000.

Property owner Gary DeShano objected during the Public Hearing on the matter. He said, “This is an additional burden we cannot afford. Traffic can go south on paved roads and does not need to use the gravel portions of the road. DeShano owns more than 50 percent of the property there. The United States Department of Agriculture, owner of the other affected property, formerly Briarwood Limited, also had objected to the improvements.

Commissioner Bonham said the streets should have been done earlier. “It will benefit the City,” he said, “there is a lot of traffic there.”

Kingsbury suggested that the improvements could be spread out over time to help minimize the impact of the cost of paving a portion of the gravel road.

In his report to the City, City Manager Hibl reported that a grant from the Gerstacker Foundation will add $50,000 for the Clare Railroad Depot project. Hibl said the funds will make it possible to move the old depot this fall.

Other business at the Clare City meeting included:

*a demonstration of “Phazer glasses” which have an imbedded video cameras by Clare Police Captain Dave Saad. Four pair of the glasses have been purchased with funds from the Data Processing budget.  Another three pairs would be needed for all officers to have a pair. “It has already stopped complaints,” said Clare Police Chief Brian Gregory.

*recognition of Firefighter Jamie Swan for 15 years of service with the department.

*approval of an Industrial Facilities agreement and exemption for Advanced Battery Concepts, for additional machinery and equipment costing $532,650.00 The abatement would be for 50 percent of the taxes on the new equipment for a 12 year period.

*approval for the City to purchase a second new fully equipped police vehicle through the State of Michigan purchasing program at a cost of $38,836.68 with 55 percent of the costs coming from a USDA grant.  After selling three of the existing vehicles, the final cost to the City will be $16,344 for both new vehicles.

*approval of an Intergovernmental Agreement with the City of Mt. Pleasant for engineering services.

*setting the Halloween Trick or Treat date and hours for October 31 from 6 to 8 p.m.

*approved the three final payments for the Waste Water Treatment Plant project. The payments were $164,626.31 to J.R. Heineman; $28,088.54 to J. Ranck Electric; and $80,491.70 to Central Asphalt.

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