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March 19, 2014 - Delaying a repair could wind up costing the Clarkston more taxpayer funds.

In December 2013, City Manager Carol Eberhardt and DPW Forman Jason Miller told city council a manhole needed to be installed in the Mills Race, a creek that runs behind the Clarkston Mills Malls.

Eberhardt said, Monday, the reason the work was a delayed was because the city could not find a contractor to do the work.

The city manager told council the city is contractually obligated to fix any erosion problems with the Mill's Race. She added if the problem was not fixed soon, erosion would grow, leading to a larger and more costly repair.

Eberhardt and Miller told council the city engineer, Gary Tressel of Hubbell, Roth & Clark, recommended the manhole be installed in winter when the ground is frozen because it would have less of an effect on the surrounding banks and be an easier fix.

Several calls placed to Tressel were unreturned.

Miller said he had some concerns with the fix, including what would happen with the ice when the water level was lowered for repair.

The sooner the city could do the repair, the better, he said, but he also needed to consult with City Attorney Tom Ryan to find out what can or can't be done because of a previous lawsuit.

Miller said he would rent an excavator to install the manhole and make another repair on a bridge in Depot Park. He indicated he wanted city council to approve a budget for repairs, which he estimated would cost between $4,000-$5,000.

Councilman Mike Sabol asked how the work would be funded.

"I don't know," said Eberhardt. "Stay tuned."

Tammie Heazlit, a Clarkston resident educated in storm water management, said she previously warned the city the way the pipe was installed would cause future problems because the pipe drops down a steep slope and would cause excess sediment buildup and erosion.

"You can't just put a plain outlet there," said Heazlit.

No city official mentioned her concerns or ideas.

"I figured, why waste my time if they just ignore me," she said.

Heazlit also disagrees with the present proposed fix, installing a structured manhole.

"It's 20-year-old thinking, and there are much better options available including using some 'green' methods that includes installing plants that would help filter sediments before they reach the drain," she said.

City Attorney Tom Ryan said he couldn't understand why a structured manhole was not installed in 2009, after the city was sued.

"I don't know why when the lawsuit was resolved, why the manhole was not put in then," said Ryan.

In 2009, former city resident Norm Cristea's house was damaged after 20 feet of sewer pipe collapsed, causing a sinkhole on his property.

Cristea originally approached the city council in 2003 after he noticed cracks in the foundation of his home and asked that a sewer pipe be rerouted.

In 2003, the city council took no action after Tressel said there was no structural problems with Cristea's house.

Ryan also said the pipe pre-dated Cristea's home so it had the legal right to be there.

Cristea said the issue should have been resolved when he first brought up the issue in 2003.

The sewer pipe was relocated after the city paid just over $4,000 for two easements to install the pipe.

Former City manager Dennis Ritter said the larger sewer pipe, relocated in 2009, would ease flooding in several areas of the city and minimize sediment from entering the Mill Pond and eventually the Mills Race.

Heazlit said she recently offered to teach an educational course to city officials, so they could better understand the issue.

"I would still be happy to work with the city council," she said.

Staff writer covering Independence Township and Clarkston area.
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