Source: Sherman Publications

Council: who will pay for seawall repair?

by Megan Hess

October 07, 2009

Approximately fifty feet of seawall on Lake Orion is in desperate need of repair – 15 feet of which has already collapsed and fallen in the water – but the Village of Lake Orion is unsure who should foot the bill.

“It’s got to be repaired,” said Village Councilmember John Ranville. “Who’s responsible?”

Councilmembers and village administration are not certain who originally built the wall on Bridge Street, though it is in village right-of-way and does protect the road and utility lines from erosion, according to Village Manager Paul Zelenak.

“The question would be, what would we do if we did not make the repair?” said Zelenak, adding, “If we decide to do nothing, it will be worse later on.”

But some councilmembers worry about setting a precedent for future wall repairs.

“Does that mean that when everybody on Buena Vista, Longpointe – wherever – has a wall that has to be repaired, that they ask the village to repair it because it’s holding up the shoreline and the roads?” asked Councilmember Douglas Dendel. “Most of the people repair their own walls. That’s why the village has the draw-down, the lowering of lake levels so people can make repairs.”

Council decided not to act on the issue at their Sept. 28 regular meeting as they await further information.

Potential actions include: hiring a contractor to complete the work at a cost of around $13,000 to the village; determining if the village’s Department of Public Works (DPW) can handle repairs; and creating a special assessment district (SAD).

A SAD would mean charging residents who benefit from the repairs to pay for them. But the trick is, says the village manager, determining who benefits and divvying up the bill.

Are payments divided equally? Do property owners pay according to street frontage? Where do the repairs stop? Do owners along the good section of wall still pay?

“There are a lot of different things to take into consideration,” said Zelenak of an SAD.

The manager hopes to make a recommendation to the council by the next meeting, Oct. 12.

The work, he says, is something that has to be done this fall as cement work and brick laying are sensitive to temperature.

Dave Makin has been a Bridge Street resident for six years.

His house is located across from the collapsed wall and he’s not pleased with the idea of an SAD.

“I’m not paying them anything,” he said. “They hardly let me use it as it is. I’d like to own it – if it was mine, I’d pay for it. I’d make the seawall look nice if I could.”

Makin says a portion of the wall began falling two years ago and deep holes on Bridge Street’s shoulder formed earlier this year.

As a preventative measure, the DPW placed cement parking blocks to restrict parking and an orange hazard blockade was placed over the deepest hole.