By Pat Maurer
Comment from two concerned city residents took up much of the Clare City meeting Monday.
Jack and Cathy Rendel were once again at the Commission meeting to ask the City to look into the reason their basement flooded with sewage last May.
The couple were at the last meeting in July for the same reason. At that meeting the Commission agreed to test both their connecting lines and the sewer main in front of their Glendale Street home.
The couple is facing a $20,000 bill for cleanup and restoration of their basement after it flooded with water and sewage May 29.
“We do not have the funds to cover the cleanup already done, let alone the funds needed to rebuild or replace furniture, carpets, bedding, storage room contents, etc.,” Cathy wrote in a letter to the Commission at the July meeting. She said Central Restoration was on site about nine days to do the cleanup.
The issue was on the Monday night agenda with a recommendation from the City Manager that the couple’s claim be denied because of “the lack of any evidence that the back-up or damage was caused by the failure of the City’s sanitary sewer system.” Hibl said the tests found that a foundation drainage system around the home (bead dry system) was illegally connected to the city system.
The Rendels objected to the city’s findings at Monday’s meeting.
Jack Rendel read a letter outlining the reasons why they believe the sewage back-up is the cause of their damages.
“There had to have been sewage pushing into our house …from the city sewer otherwise the bead dry system water would have simply drained away down the city sewer,” he wrote. “We believe there is enough doubt to make an appeal for help.” He said a Gourdie Fraser engineer did not come back because they had more questions on the findings. “We wanted to ask him questions like …where did the sewage actually come from?” He said they weren’t using the system when the backup occurred and that their line was “in good condition, clear of sewage, not broken or split, or was it full of tree roots.”
They believe the sewage had to have come from the eight inch city line.
Commissioner Tom Koch said, “If it is possible that our sewer (system) caused this, we should pay for this.”
Because of the couple’s unanswered questions, Hibl suggested and the Commission agreed to set the matter aside once again and look into it more.
Other concerns about authorizing the City staff to apply for an Economic Development Grant for infrastructure work and a new water tower on the north side of Clare were also discussed at length.
City resident Al Demarest objected to the City even applying for the grant, which if approved, would pay nearly half of a $4.4 million project.
“That money would be used to develop an industrial park there (on Colonville Road),” he said, “but the agenda report doesn’t even mention that.”
“How would the city pay for the rest of that (project)?” he asked. “It would be an enormous cost to the city. You are proposing a major bonding and major borrowing. That scares me to death with the present economy.”
City Manager Ken Hibl replied, saying, “This is just approval to apply and it and we only recently learned about it. This does not commit the City to the grant, if we get it. We would determine how to fund the rest of the project if, and when the Commission decides if we should even do it.” He added that the estimated cost of the project did not include improvements to Colonville Road and that other grants would be sought for that.
Hibl added that the Commission had approved seeking a grant from the EDA three months ago to fund a new water tower. He said, “We have been talking about an expansion for eight years, since 2005. This grant would put us in a position to develop infrastructure there.” He continued, “Because we are a ‘depressed area’, the EDA would pay 60 percent of the cost.
Hibl said developers for the property, 60 acres along Colonville Road, have pledged $4 million towards the cost of the infrastructure project, and that the improvements would bring in new taxpayers and users for the city services there and that the developers, cannot profit from infrastructure improvements there, but that those property values would have to be based on present appraisals.
Demarest also questioned the stipulation that Grant Township, although they would not be liable for any of the project, had to be a co-applicant.
Hibl said he had only recently talked to Grant Township Supervisor Dan Dysinger and that the township board had not even discussed it yet.
The City approved the designation of Hibl as authorized representative to apply for the grant by a 4-1 vote with Commissioner Tom Koch voting against it.
Other business at the City meeting included:
*Approval of an Airport Block Grant and the Airport Construction contract to build a parallel taxiway at the Clare Municipal Airport.
*Approval of the purchase of one police vehicle, completely equipped, from the State program. A United States Department of Agriculture grant will pay about 55 percent, a total of $41,976 towards the purchase of two vehicles, the first, a 2014 Ford Police Interceptor Utility AWD for road patrol, costing $37,484.26. The second vehicle, a 2014 Ford Police Interceptor Utility AWD for K-9 service, will be purchased later and will cost $38,836.68.
*Approved an additional services credit application to purchase retirement credits for Police Officer Al White, who will retire August 31. The cost to the city will be $27,363, but because White’s position is being eliminated and also the one formerly held by Officer Greg Rynearson, who has already retired, the cost savings to the city will be approximately $160,000 in the first year.
*Approval of the renewal of a contract for Christmas decoration with Kenmark, Inc. The Clare Downtown Development Authority pays half of the $8,157 total cost.
*Approval for a public hearing on a proposed $85,000 in improvements to Brookwood Drive between Vinewood and Briarwood Streets.