Drain is Wayne County jurisdiction
By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
TAYLOR – Flooding on Golfcrest in the relatively new Charter Oaks Village subdivision has left residents frustrated, unable to ford the water, and voicing concerns at the May 15 City Council meeting.
Tim Benson, president of the Charter Oaks Village Homeowners Association, and resident Richard Johnson, who live in the 11000 block of Golfcrest, asked city officials to help them clear the standing water on their street, which they said is so deep some residents can’t get out of their driveways, and has caused water damage to some vehicles when residents tried to drive through the standing water.
The National Weather Service reported that 1.5 to 3.5 inches of rain fell in Wayne County May 11 to 13, and the Rouge River reached its flood stage Saturday night.
Mayor Rick Sollars said the city had been in contact with Wayne County officials about the issues with the Jacques Drain, the river which runs through the subdivision, and they had committed to evaluating the situation on site.
Sollars said the city’s Department of Public Works foreman had been in the subdivision that day, unsuccessfully attempted to gain access to the pump at the retention pound, and could not confirm whether it was working properly.
“Sometimes there are fuses that are tripped, or it is jammed and it stops working,” Sollars said.
Sollars said city officials investigated, and found that all the storm water permits were reviewed and issued by Wayne County originally, and all required inspections did occur.
“The site was definitely designed properly,” Sollars said. “It looks like this is down to one of two things. Either the pump itself is not working properly or not working at all, or the drain is simply not allowing the water to flow properly, or a combination of both.”
Sollars said on May 18 that the pump had power and appeared to be working.
“What we do not know is if it is working properly due to the amount of water that remains,” Sollars said May 18. “Wayne County was on site May 17 to inspect the conditions of the Jacques Drain.”
Sollars said that makeshift footbridges near Cape Cod Street over the drain are not helping the situation.
Sollars said that on May 17, the city manually pumped water out of the subdivision’s retention pond into the county drain in an effort to empty the retention pond. He said the city’s engineering team will go back to evaluate the existing retention pond conditions when the water is lower.
Sollars said on May 18 that the city will meet with county officials to determine it Jacques Drain needs dredging or cleaning.
City Communications Director Karl Ziomek said on May 18 that while Taylor DPW official Randy Smith said the pump was working, water was not leaving the system at the rate it should. Ziomek said a half dozen issues may be influencing the situation, and he said phragmites, an invasive species, can increase the risk of flooding and may need to be removed.
Ziomek said that on May 17, he went to the subdivison, and water was no longer present on Golfcrest.
Ziomeck said county officials will meet May 21 with city officials.
Benson said at the May 15 City Council meeting that the pump was inspected May 15 and it was working, and a specialist was scheduled to look at the pump May 16 to see if it was working properly, and emphasized that resolving the flooding quickly should be a priority.
“We have people who cannot get out of their homes, who cannot get to work, and who have had car damage because of this,” Benson said.
Benson asked why the homeowners’ association was responsible for the condition of the roads in the subdivision, and Sollars explained that the area was a private development, and 10 years or more ago it was a common practice for developments to treat the roads as privately owned common areas within a subdivision, and that there are other areas in the city that were developed the same way. The association is responsible for the maintenance and repair of the roads.
Benson listed numerous grievances the neighborhood had with respect to unfinished work from the developer, in addition to the current flooding, and asked the city to help.
Sollars said the subdivision developer went bankrupt about eight years ago, and a builder was contracted to do some of the work that was left undone, and part of the small builder’s bond will be used to complete the subdivision landscaping.
Sollars said he was not mayor when these events occurred, so he does not have first-hand knowledge of the events that occurred that impacted the subdivision.
“If a company goes bankrupt, and there are no more assets available to get from them, it is very difficult to get anything out of them,” Sollars said. “That is why the city negotiated with a builder to get them in there, to build some homes, to get completion to the project.”
Benson said as association president, he gets complaints from the homeowners on a regular basis.
“It’s rough, and I would like to get some sort of a promise or some sort of confidence from the council and you, Mr. Mayor, in regards to getting answers to these questions,” Benson said.
Sollars said he can promise answers, but he can’t promise that Benson is going to like the answers.
The flooding is the city’s first priority right now, Sollars said. He said a company was scheduled to evaluate the pump on May 16, and the city would continue to work with Wayne County to address the overflow issue with Jacques Drain, and how it is incapacitated with weeds.
“I don’t think that is the entire problem, but that’s not helping matters, that’s for sure,” Sollars said.
Sollars said the county is governed by the state drain code, which has the authority to levy taxes to resolve drainage issues.
Benson asked if the city could clear the standing water from Golfcrest and bill the county.
Sollars said the city did not have any jurisdiction over the county drains, and could not go into the system without the proper permits.
“We will continue to work with the drain commission and their office to try to get you some answers and resolution,” Sollars said. “And let’s keep our fingers crossed that it doesn’t rain again.”
Resident Richard Johnson, who said he lives at the “lowest point in the subdivision,” said it was a challenge for him to get out of his driveway.
Sollars said the city would try to help the residents, but he didn’t want the residents to leave thinking the city would “do things it can’t do.”
“We will certainly give you honest answers to at least bring some closure to it,” Sollars said.
Councilman Butch Ramik said that his concern was it would be difficult for first responders to get through the flooding on Golfcrest.
“If we have a major incident down there and the police or fire department need to get in, they are not going to get in,” Ramik said. “I consider this an emergency situation.”
Ramik said that while the city and county sort out responsibility, the emergency situation will continue to exist, and he called for steps to be taken to keep residents safe, and if the city has equipment available to get the water off the street, they should use it.
“Half that block is under water, and they can’t get out,” Ramik said.
Sollars said that if taking a vac truck into the neighborhood and shooting lines that were blocked with debris would solve the problem, the city would have already taken that step.
“They have issues that are outside of that,” Sollars said. “Just taking a vac truck down there right now would not move that water anywhere, anyway. The vac trucks are designed to shoot the lines.
“We are trying to find a solution for the homeowners, not play politics with them. There is a situation down there we have been involved with since it was brought to our attention. We are going to find how to fix it, but there are steps to get there, and throughout the night last night, it rained heavily again, so we have this continuation of storms that are happening, and it is compounding the issue.”
Sollars said on the morning of May 16 the city will be on site and will continue to press the county for relief and resolution.
In the neighborhood, Theresa Windon, who has lived on the 11000 block of Golfcrest for three years, said there are no barricades or barriers to prevent people from driving into the standing water on the street, and the area is not well-lit, so someone could drive into the flooded area unaware at night. She said there have been cars damaged by water when they tried to traverse the flooded section of road.
“I have a truck that (the water) came halfway up the truck door,” Windon said.
Monica Brown, who lives across the street from Windon, and who moved in about a year ago, said a transformer box in her backyard is almost completely submerged, which they are concerned about from a safety perspective. She said she found the situation scary.
Windon said some homeowners have no way out of their driveways if they don’t have a high-riding vehicle like a pickup truck. She said they have had two prior incidents of flooding, but this is the worst and the longest duration.
Windon said there was currently some flooding on Parkside, but it was not as severe as the Golfcrest flooding. She said there are a lot of children who live on the flooded section of Golfcrest.
Brown said the situation was frustrating.
“It’s a little scary, because sometimes I come in the back (of the subdivision) and forget that it’s flooded,” she said. “I power through it and hope that I can make it through.”
On the evening of May 15, Brown said they were into the fifth day of the road being flooded.
“We are trying to plant grass seed, and it’s flooding away,” Brown said. “I just hope they can get it fixed. My kids were playing in it earlier, and I was saying, ‘This is not the beach, you guys!’”
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at [email protected])