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Published: Tuesday, 11/11/2003

Monroe Co. road project leaves motorists fuming

MONROE - Responding to motorists complaints about vehicles damaged by stones on a resurfaced section of Raisinville Road, the Monroe County Road Commission said it can t legally pay for the repairs.

Commission members said they sympathize with drivers whose windows and windshields were chipped, broken, or cracked, but the county can only refer them to its insurance carrier.

“It s not our decision,” said Robert Duffey, a commission member. “That s what we have an insurance company and their expertise for. ... We rely on their judgment in these cases.”

The insurer, Cambridge Integrated Services of Mount Clemens, Mich., has denied all claims from motorists. Mr. Duffey said about 160 vehicle owners have filed damage claims.

About 15 residents attended last night s commission meeting to press their case for reimbursement for repairs that have cost some of them hundreds of dollars.

“Accountability is a big issue with a lot of us. We don t see where they re being accountable,” Monroe resident Chris Sims said afterward.

In August the road commission resurfaced a mile of Raisinville Road between M-50 and Dunbar Road, using a mixture of tar and stones.

Ms. Sims said she was traveling on Raisinville Aug. 18 when a stone kicked up by a vehicle going the other way shattered the driver-side window of her car.

“They said it was speed, but I was only going 5 to 10 mph,” she said.

Ms. Sims paid a $50 deductible to her auto insurer to replace the broken window.

“That s all my letter asked for. We just want our deductibles back,” she said.

Chuck Kressbach of Monroe said he had to pay almost $300 to replace his windshield, which was chipped Aug. 19. Stones kicked up by a truck going the opposite way caused the damage, he said.

“It just sprayed my car with stones,” he said. “It seems to me there was a lot more stone than necessary.”

Blair Dyer, the road commission s director of maintenance, said Raisinville Road was resurfaced with a computer-controlled mixture of tar and slag - crushed stone that s a byproduct of steel production - used on similar county roads.

He said the road commission resurfaces about 70 miles of road a year using the same process and usually receives complaints about damaged cars.

“I get calls every time they do that,” Mr. Dyer said. “The reason they do that is it preserves the road.”

In a Sept. 5 letter to Monroe resident Carolyn Hall, a Cambridge official said Michigan law bars the insurer from paying her for her chipped windshield. Ms. Hall said her car was damaged by a stone kicked up by a road commission truck on Aug. 19.

“Governmental entities, such as the Road Commission, are immune from tort liability when they are engaged in their governmental function, which includes roadway maintenance,” Paul G. Aubin, a Cambridge claims investigator, wrote.

Mr. Duffey acknowledged that the road commission repaired some of its own trucks that were damaged by stones, plus four Monroe County sheriff s cars.

“We didn t spend any money,” he said. “We repaired those in-house.”



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