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Published: Wednesday, 12/13/2006

Ditches drain joy from Green Hills

BY BENJAMIN ALEXANDER-BLOCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Drainage ditches like the one viewed by Mike Malone are the topic on concern for him and his Green Hills neighbors. Drainage ditches like the one viewed by Mike Malone are the topic on concern for him and his Green Hills neighbors.
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Green Hills subdivision residents are up in arms over the large drainage ditches that have been dug alongside their roads, in front of their houses, and within their front lawns.

They're calling them 'moats,' because they fill with water when it rains.

The Monroe County Road Commission recently completed most of the road work and commissioned Northline Excavating of Taylor, Mich. to do the drainage.

The privately funded, $1.25 million project narrowly passed in November, 2005, when 51 percent of the approximately 250 home owners signed the petition to create the special assessment district. Each home owner has to pay about $5,000 for the road and drainage project, or $578 over 15 years, according to township treasurer Sherri Meyer.

Chuck Reed, the foreman for the Northline project, said that he and his workers have been hearing a lot of complaints from residents but that they're just following the project's specifications.

Nancy Tienvieri of the road commission said these ditches are necessary for the long-term life of the subdivision's newly paved roads.

"When water accumulates under the roads, it prevents them from having a solid base and then this leads to the creation of potholes," she said.

Most residents agreed that the roads in the 50-year-old subdivision off Sterns Road were in need of repair, and so a special assessment district was created to pay for the project.

But residents flocked to the last Bedford Township Board meeting to "force the township's hand to keep the heat on the road commission," said resident Mike Malone.

Residents pleaded with the township to make the county road commission fix what residents' consider to be poor workmanship. And township board members overwhelming said they would do all they could to resolve these subdivision residents' worries.

"This looks like work that would be done on some of our mile roads, like Douglas and Secor roads, not on our subdivision roads," said Trustee Dennis Steinman at the board meeting. "We are going to stand up and do whatever we need to do to get this resolved for you."

He said the township may hire a third-party engineering firm to examine the project and make possible recommendations.

Resident Ralph McCarrick has his Green Hills home up for sale. He originally listed it for $189,000, but now - post-ditches - he's lowered the pricetag to $159,000, and he's receiving offers even lower than that.

"I've taken a 30-grand hit on this thing," he said. "These ditches have completely ruined the aesthetics of my property."

Ms. Tienvieri said open drains are now encouraged to lessen environmental impact.

"Yes in some of the newer subdivisions, built in the last 10 years or so, the drainage is underground, with catch basins and tiles," she said. "However, the preference of our drain commissioner at this time is natural drainage."

Dan Stefanski, County Ddain commissioner, said, yes, he is encouraging county departments to embrace open drainage, but he said his department has no direct involvement in this particular Green Hills project because it is privately funded.

Ms. Tienvieri said her department also chose these open drainage ditches for financial reasons - underground storm drains throughout the subdivision would cost an additional $400,000.

"The special assessment already passed so narrowly, we would have never gotten it passed if we'd added the cost for underground drainage," she said.

But, perhaps, the major seed of discontent stems from a problem of semantics, not aesthetics.

Many residents said they heard the words "gentle swales" not "ditches."

Ms. Tienvieri said perhaps the road commission could have been a bit clearer, but that both swales and ditches are mentioned in the project's wording.

"We probably could have done a better job of giving pictures and explaining things more clearly. We see now that the people didn't understand exactly what we were talking about. But, you know, as they say, hindsight is 20-20."

Ms. Tienvieri said she also wanted to clarify that this project is not yet finished. She said the road commission will continue to address "any areas of concern."

Contact Benjamin

Alexander-Bloch

at babloch@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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