Residents Learn Flooding Fix Comes With a Fee; Is it Fair?

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MUSKEGON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (May 21, 2014) — A sump pump in the Hancocks’ new home is still flowing, pumping water into a ditch that is already full of water.

After seeking a solution from several government agencies, the Hancocks and their neighbors complained to a board meeting of the Muskegon County Road Commission Wednesday morning.

“I’d be outside digging, cleaning out the culverts as much as I could to get the water to flow,” Richard Hancock told the commissioners. “I mean, literally, morning after morning after morning.”

The Hancocks moved into their house April 15, but right away they found problems. The furnace was under a foot of water.

Residents said water in the ditches fails to flow properly to a nearby drain. According to the road commission’s policy, homeowners are responsible for clearing their driveway culverts, and the road commission is in charge of maintaining the ditches.

However, managing director Ken Hulka and superintendent Lauri Peterson said the road commission doesn’t touch a ditch until the water floods the roadway.

Muskegon Township supervisor Dave Kieft, who FOX 17 spoke with last week, told the road commission he feels they’re passing the buck.

“The solution, which I explained to Mr. Hancock, is from the road commission’s perspective, a special assessment project,” Hulka said.

A “special assessment” means the Hancocks would need to get signatures from other affected residents and take it to the township. Once approved, the road commission would contract with the township and make any needed repairs and then charge the homeowners.

“This special assessment thing, they shouldn’t have to pay to get this taken care of when it’s something they’re not responsible for,” Kieft said.

However, Hulka said the problems often stem from residents destroying the ditches by adding dirt or gravel. To be fair, nobody from the road commission specifically confirmed whether any homeowners were actually filling the ditches with dirt and gravel or if that is what actually caused the problem.

Members of the crowd at the meeting had various suggestions. A resident of Cedar Creek Township suggested the road commission could have done a better job of maintaining the ditches and monitoring whether homeowners broke any rules.

FOX 17 found out today that Ken Hulka, the managing director of the road commission, is actually Sara Hancock’s uncle.  However, it appears the road commission is sticking to what it has traditionally done situations like this and presented the ‘special assessment’ option.

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