City of Chelsea Approves Storm Water Proposal, Residents Unhappy





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By Seth Kinker, skinker@thesuntimesnews.com

The City of Chelsea approved a proposal from Midwestern Consulting LLC. (MCI) for professional surveying and civil engineering services for a study of Flanders street, specifically the southern storm water outlet on Monday, July 23.

The proposal, which isn’t to exceed the expenditure of over $12,000 from the Storm Water cash balance, will “evaluate existing conditions and provide probable costs of constructions and a recommendation to alleviate the above-ground storm water storage at the Flanders/Wood Intersection.”



The survey began July 9 and was completed July 18 at which time the study began. A meeting between MCI and city staff to discuss options is set for July 30. After finalizing a recommendation and report on Aug. 17 the plan is to present the findings to city council on September 4.

This proposal is a result of residents bringing a different topic – drainage problems – to council.

The issue came to the city council June 18 when Erin Lightfoot, a resident of Chelsea when she was younger, who had recently moved downtown, reported to council members during the public comment period of the meeting that she was unhappy with the cities response to different citizens, and years, of complaints pertaining to the drainage issue.

Lightfoot noted that after calling in May to complain about flooding in her home, a promised follow up phone call wasn’t received, and after she reached out again for a meeting for repairs or inspection, nothing again.  She said she noticed the issue not long after moving to her current home on Flanders last November.

“The water in the street became an issue anytime in the winter when the snow melted, it just sat,” said Lightfoot. “I live on an odd end of the road, the road was supposed to have continued and they just abruptly stopped it, that is the area where they choose to plow snow into and anytime that snow melts it’s kind of a basin for the water to build up.  I also abut the property where the water just sits and ends up in the ground around my home. I don’t have curves on the end of my driveway, so there’s nothing to stop it going to the street and onto my property. I have standing water right now on my property.”

“There’s a number of us (on Flanders Street) who are having considerably expensive issues with water coming into our basements,” continued Lightfoot. “I did a bunch of research and learned there are no storm drains now, these are basins. They capped them. The water regularly builds up in the street and is now regularly a problem for not only me but a number of our neighbors.”

Lightfoot told The Sun Times about contact she had had with Chelsea City officials pertaining to the drainage issues. A week later, she said the street was billed for storm drain assessments.

“I already had a meeting with the city manager scheduled,” said Lightfoot. “I brought it up with him and showed it to him and said ‘we don’t have access to storm drains, the closest one to me is uphill which means everything comes downhill and hits the basin. There are no storm drains, why am I being billed for storm drains when I don’t have them or access to them?’”

Lightfoot told The Sun Times she learned that many residents on Flanders, Book, and Wood Streets have spent upwards of thousands of dollars on their basements in trying to get them waterproofed.

Although the issue began with being taxed for services she said the area wasn’t receiving, a class action lawsuit is now at least being considered because of the alleged damage to the properties.

“We’ve had multiple staff contacts with Mrs. Lightfoot on this issue since mid-May,” said City Manager John Hanifan. “The city will continue to look at the overall issues there, look at the infrastructure and make sure it’s working as intended. If there are any adjustments that need to be made to the overall system, we’ll make it. We’d do that anywhere in the city, we don’t ignore problems, it’s not productive or sustainable for anybody. We use a work order system, we document when calls come into the office and without emotion or reservation, our staff that field the calls process the order and then our public works or electric or wastewater to go identify the issue.”

Lightfoot noted that even though there had been multiple complaints none had registered because they weren’t formally documented via a written complaint.

“We’re going to continue to work through it,” said Hanifan. “Have people called the office and said, ‘Hey there’s a pool at the end of the street.’ That could have happened, sometimes if catch basins, the top of the catch basin or the storm drain, isn’t clear that can happen from time to time because debris can get in there. The water will pool. We do street sweepings. Again, we’re committed to solving problems here, always done that, continue to do that the best we can.”

Hanifan walked through the proposal at the July 23 meeting. A topographic and boundary survey are included in the Storm Water proposal. The topographic survey is intended to verify inverts of the Silver Maples storm sewer and that they are at an adequate elevation for depth for an outlet. The boundary survey is due to an easement being required if a storm sewer outlet is brought through the St. Joe’s Hospital property.

A storm sewer outlet study was also included in the proposal and Hanifan noted several storm drains on Book street that were closed over time as asphalt covered the storm drains. With the water that outlets onto the edge of the pavement at the end of Flanders and Book streets, MCI would look at calculations of water in the area before offering recommendations and options for grading, improvements, and costs of construction.

Hanifan took questions from council regarding the proposal and he said he didn’t anticipate any bids going out for the project until September.

Before Council discussed the proposal, Lightfoot commented noting some details were incorrect that were sent to MCI. She stated that despite the report from MCI she was not the only one to lodge a complaint about the issue and the report made it sound like it was only the complaint of one resident.

“Are you sure you want misleading information given to the company that’s supposed to be fixing the problem?” Lightfoot asked councilmembers.

Another comment from MCI pertaining to the reported flooding in Lightfoot’s basement talked about not including a hydrogeological study to determine if the stormwater storing in the soil approximately 60 feet away from the basement wall is affecting the basement.

First, she noted that the water was closer to 20 feet, and that a soil saturation study should have been done before a legitimate claim could be made regarding the water sitting there in the first place.

“Is Mrs. Dickinson (of MCI) saying there is no plan to look at the impact of the project on what the project is supposed to help? If it doesn’t work and it causes more problems, the city will be cutting another check in less than ten years,” said Lightfoot. “The proposal only looks at drainage at Flanders and Wood intersection according to Mrs. Dickinson’s report and I guess that means my neighbors really are on their own. The project specifically excludes environmental studies, suggesting you hire a company that won’t consider the bog MCI intends to run a drain through, nor the existing water table – both of which would be covered by that heading. To sum up my concerns no one is taking the time to make sure this is being done right. Done? Sure. But right? No. You want to write a check for $12,000 without due diligence because someone skimmed the proposal, I don’t think tax money is available for that. I would recommend you move to do a lot more research on this before you vote to spend $12,000 on it.”

 

 

 

 

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Seth Kinker

Reporter/Digital Media for The Sun Times News

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