By Rosemary K. Otzman
Residents of Van Buren and Sumpter townships attended the formal Wayne County Board of Determination meeting June 24 to consider testimony on whether maintenance and improvement is necessary of the Head Drain and its Torrey and Elwell branches.
The meeting was held at the Van Buren Township Hall.
After hearing public testimony, the Board voted unanimously that maintenance and improvement of the Head Drain and its branches is necessary and conducive to Public Health, Convenience or Welfare and necessary for Protection of Public Health to Municipality.
Arthur Nagy of Brownstown served as chairman of the board; Patricia Ganzberger of Southgate served as secretary; and Paul Sincock, Plymouth City Manager, served as board member. Jack Franzil stood by in case a third board member was needed.
Matt Best, Wayne County drains manager, gave an introduction to Head Drain that he said was established in 1862, is three miles long, and travels along both sides of Bemis Road and then drains into Throop Drain.
Best said there are 390 individual parcels in the drainage district and there have been cleanouts in 1876, 1925, and 1952.
He said in the years 2000-2012 there have been numerous complaints on the drain, including log jams, blocked culverts, and stagnant water.
In December 2012, the county received a petition from residents which led to the Board of Determination hearing.
Rodney Valez of Spicer Group engineers said at the request of the Drain Commission he and Richard Graham did an inspection of the drain on May 31.
They walked the drain between Sumpter and Rawsonville roads and found the drain had the same character all along its three-mile route.
Valez reported and showed pictures of the debris, obstructions, vegetation, the drain right of way overgrown with brush and trees, and a lot of garbage, and localized erosion.
He said close to Martha’s Lane, west of Sumpter Road, someone had dammed up the drain and made a pool of stagnant water.
Along the mobile home park on Elwell Road, he showed pictures taken of a fence falling into the drain, a large tree next to the drain washing out, and debris in the drain. Closer to Lohr Road, he showed a fort built over the drain. East of Lohr Road there were trees flat in the drain building up sediment.
Valez said the culverts along Bemis were 50-60% full of sediment, along with cattails and Phragmites.
He stated that, according to records, the last time the drain was cleaned was in 1952, with some intermittent maintenance over the years.
John Hughes, 46445 Harris Road, asked where the cleaned Head Drain will drain. He asked if the Throop Drain, where Head empties, is cleaned?
Hughes was told Throop wasn’t cleaned and he commented, “Unless you clean Throop, we’re just making a pond.”
Stacy L. Hissong, attorney, said Head outlets to Throop Drain and Riggs Drain and bids went out this spring on Throop and the work will be done before this construction on Head.
Hissong said the drain work is paid by apportionments of percentages to Wayne County, for benefits to county roads; to MDOT for benefits to highways (which probably doesn’t apply here); to the townships for public health; and a portion to the property owners, based on acreage and zoning. The assessment is levied for up to 20 years.
Hughes said he would like to know how much this was going to cost and Hissong said the Drain Code that has to be followed was made by the Legislature.
The Board of Determination votes yes or no on whether it is needed, then there is a request for proposals for engineers to hire, an informational meeting on the costs, and then a day of review.
Hughes was concerned about the cost and hoped the board will consider the actual need and the hardship cleaning it will cause.
Jim Richendollar of Harris Road said nine homes are affected and he had signed the petition that resulted in that day’s board meeting.
He said on April 8, 1999 a study was done by JCK & Associates and the Board of Determination came out and surveyed the entire Torrey Drain and part of Head Drain and the board decided not to do it.
Richendollar said he had to put in a sub pump to keep his furnace operating.
He said he knows of no one on the Head Drain that is upset and he has no problem. He said they hired equipment and cleaned the drain eight years ago.
But, the nine people on a quarter mile of Harris Road need help, Richendollar said.
Aline B. Smith of 45821 Harris Road said she got oceanfront property without moving her home. She said she had 3½ inches of water in her garage and almost lost her freezer.
She said she called Fox News and they came out. The county tried to blow the ditches out. She said Sumpter said to clean out your own ditches.
Lonnie Lee, from the road commission, came out and said he could do something, but he couldn’t clean part of the county drain and, “There was no place for our water to go.”
Smith said these drains need cleaning and were last cleaned the year before she was born.
Barney Ban of Lohr Road said there was a cleanup on the Head Drain by Sumpter Township in 1993 or 1994. He said his complaint is that the county has done no maintenance for at least 20 years.
“I think it’s mostly the county’s fault,” Ban said, referring to the condition of the drains. “The county should be maintaining the drains … It was cleaned.”
A man who lives on Bemis in Van Buren Township said he has no water problems and doesn’t want to pay for others having problems. He said he uses his own equipment to solve drainage problems.
Others at the Board of Determination meeting included Wayne County Drain Commissioner Kenneth M. Kucel, Deputy Commissioner Elmeka Allen, VBT Director of Planning and Economic Development Arthur Mullen, VBT DPW Director Jim Taylor, and VBT engineering consultant Dave Nummer from Wade Trim engineers.
By Rosemary K. Otzman