Source: Sherman Publications

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Goodrich drain issues overflowing into circuit court
Nineteen plaintiffs seek compensation after they were allegedly damaged by village drains, sewer, millpond in village

by David Fleet

July 30, 2014

The battle over Goodrich drains could soon end up in court.

On July 25 Flint Attorney Dean T. Yeotis filed a class action in the Seventh Circuit Court for a group of Village of Goodrich residents, along with three Genesee County businesses, charging four counts surrounding the village sewage system, drains and mill pond.

The plaintiffs’ series of complaints seek monetary damages in excess of $25,000. Judge Richard Yuille will hear the case.

The four counts include sewage disposal system defect claims, unlawful taking of property as a result of damages caused by the sewer system, a negligence claim against the Goodrich Country Club regarding a culvert under Ridge Road used to provide irrigation for the golf course, and unlawful trespass of water claim against the Goodrich Country Club that caused damage. The suit claims the defendants failed to timely correct defective conditions with regard to the sewers, drains and the mill pond. The results of the defects caused damages to the plaintiffs’ homes and businesses when untreated sewage and storm water was backed up into their dwellings.

As of Wednesday, July 30, Village of Goodrich Administrator Jakki Sidge had not been contacted by the circuit court regarding the case and did not comment. Attorney Yeotis did not return phone calls as of press time Thursday.

The suit also claims the operation of the Goodrich Mill Pond and Dam have substantial defects, including a lack of routine maintenance, inadequate repairs and upgrades, misallocation of funding, inappropriate and untrained operational staff, a significant lack of capacity and negligent design.

Plaintiffs are residents Terese Allen, Atlas Valley Golf and Country Club, Cynthia Beebe, Davison Country Club, Kenny and Gail Hubbard, IMA Recreation Association, Tim and Pril Kleindl, Julia Neville, Brent and Hanni Oskey, John and Caitlin Pavlick, Lawrence and Jessica Pete, Tracey Plummer, Corey Robinson and Edward Welch.

Defendants are the Village of Goodrich, Genesee County Drain Commissioner, Division of Surface Water Management, Division of Water and Waste Services, County Agency and Goodrich Country Club.

Issues with the Goodrich area drains began about three years ago allegedly caused by the Wheelock & Watkins Drain. The agricultural drain, built in about 1897, 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, 2013 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 by the engineering firm of Fleis and Vandenbrink of the impacted drain area to provide possible solutions was completed and released in December. Many residents and village officials grappled with a hefty price tag of as much as $700,000 for the upgrades to the village drain system. As a result, several alternatives were suggested including a less costly Green Infrastructure implemented in the village, however, no project has been agreed upon.

In addition, the century-old Goodrich Mill Pond and dam have also been the focus of concern for village residents. Extensive work was completed after significant seepage near sinkholes in the soil embankment just east of the spillway. There were at least two instances of where the soil gave way under foot. There were no injuries. The sinkholes were an indication of a breach suspected by village officials and dam engineers. The repairs were completed in June at a cost of about $25,000. Moreover, debate continues over a permanent solution to the old dam including seeking grants for a replacement and even elimination of the dam along with the pond.