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Group meets on Goodrich drain issues, project future



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February 26, 2014 - On Tuesday a meeting regarding the progress on repairs to the Wheelock & Watkins Drain was held at the Genesee County Drain Commission Office in Flint.

Representing the Village of Goodrich, were council members Richard Saroli and Mark Baldwin, along with village resident Norm Bass. Genesee County Drain Commissioner Jeff Wright, along with Jim Gerth and Sue Kubic, were also present. The intent of the meeting was to follow up an engineering report by Fleis and Vandenbrink that provided some preliminary engineering information on upgrades to the Wheelock & Watkins drain project.

The Wheelock & Watkins Drain is an agricultural drain, built in 1897 and which encompasses a large section of the village, impacting about 100 residents. The old drain under the jurisdiction of Genesee County has been one possible cause of flooding of several residents' homes over the past few years. The flooding intensified, prompting village officials to engage the county drain officials to investigate the issues. As a result, last year petitions were signed and in a special meeting on April 9 at the village offices, a board of determination voted 3-0 to move forward with an upgrade to the Wheelock & Watkins Drain.

Since then, a study and evey by the engineering firm of Fleis and Vandenbrink of the impacted drain area to provide possible solutions was completed and released in December. The report is put out there for comment by resident, village officials or anyone interested. The comments are then evaluated by the Genesee County Drain office and discussed. The next step is to sit down with the engineers and determine if additional easements may be needed.

Jim Gerth, from the Genesee County Drain Office, said the process is ongoing.

"We received comments back from the village regarding the (Wheelock & Watkins) proposal," he said. "The next step will be to review the comments from the engineer to determine if additional plans for the engineering are needed. We also received a proposal from the Goodrich golf course who would be willing to consider using some of the low areas to store water. We understand that the proposals of $600,000 or more is a lot, but we are not yet to the cost phase of the project."

Gerth said that in the mid-1970s a township had a similar issue regarding a million-dollar fix to a drain issue.

"Actually the township board was thrown out of office due to the costs of the project," he said. "However, over the next 20 years the new township board did the project in small segments—paying for each segment until it was completed. The township board started with repairs that needed the most attention and then worked from there."

The example of the township could apply to Goodrich—however, it's just too early to decide.

"There's been a determination of public necessity, until it's been decided what the improvement to the drain looks like we will not have an exact cost," he added. "There are many factors including the foot of snow on the ground and the future of the 100-year-old Goodrich Dam that's tied into the drainage area. For right now we'll work with property owners to find something that's feasible for the community."

Richard Saroli, village council member, said options to reduce costs were discussed at the meeting.

"Initially, the proposals and suggestions the village offered in regard to the Fleis and Vanderbrink report did not meet the level of performance the county was looking for to alleviate the flooding issues," he said. "Right now they will be reviewing those proposals to reduce the exteme cost of almost one million dollars or more to taxpayers. I'm really cautious to expect any great reduction in the costs as it pertains to the Fleis and Vanderbrink report."

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