BY MATT MACKINDER
Clarkston News Staff Writer
The swamp safety path currently being installed on Clintonville Road between Waldon and Maybee roads is sagging, according to reader Michael Powell, who sent an email to The Clarkston News recently.
“In the last ‘Township Times,’ Supervisor (Pat) Kittle mentions rain as being the reason for the lack of progress on the Clintonville swamp safety path,” Powell said. “If you were to take a ride by this waste of money, you’d see that even though not a soul has used it yet, the wooden structures are already sinking, are no longer level in many spots, and already has swamp reeds growing up through it. Nobody’s used this yet and it already needs to be re-leveled?
“You would think that the township would have approached the RCOC about putting the safety path down the shoulder of the road in this area. Other communities do it. Why not here, especially when you consider that the township has leverage? If the RCOC denied their request, the township could have dissolved the ‘road improvement’ partnership with the RCOC and sent taxpayers their money back.”
“Yeah, we are frustrated with the length of time for this project to be completed,” said Kittle. “Was also frustrated by the amount and frequency of rain this year delaying not just Clintonville but several other big projects in the community. After reading the engineering report and elevation visuals, the path is not sinking as claimed in the letter. There are grade changes to keep construction costs down and we also have grade changes to keep minimum clearances under the boardwalks to allow wetland water to drain per DEQ standards.”
In a letter to DPW Director David McKee, dated July 26, Jeffrey Huhta, managing partner for Nowak and Fraus Engineers, the company working on the safety path, said there is no sagging.
“Raising the boardwalk section in this area to provide a continuous slope across the entire run would have necessitate using more boardwalk with handrail,” said Huhta. “As this was both a costlier option, and, in our opinion, a less aesthetic option, we did not consider raising the boardwalk. The boardwalk as installed meets all project specifications and achieves the desired result as contemplated during the project design process.
“We suspect that the observer who has questioned if the boardwalk system is sagging may in fact be a victim of an optical illusion. The offset in alignment and the change in vertical alignment certainly would give someone the impression that the boardwalk was sagging. This is the same observation our on-site inspector and I had when viewing this area of the boardwalk. However, the as-built analysis is conclusive. The boardwalk is not sagging in this area. Once the trail is open to the public, it will be apparent to users that there is no sag in the boardwalk section. It needs to be viewed from an alternative perspective to demonstrate the illusion.”
When the Clintonville pathway was under consideration, many options were looked at before the decision was made to build the combination of boardwalk and trails in the wetlands. Widening the shoulder on Clintonville was one considered and dismissed due to proximity of the drainage ditch, high speeds of vehicles on Clintonville, no separation between pathway and cars and volumes of traffic.
The township also looked at bypassing Clintonville altogether and running the safety path up and around Pine Knob Road and back down Waldon. This idea was dismissed as very expensive and multiple issues securing MDOT easements on the south side of Pine Knob along I-75. The Safety Path committee decided the current project was the best decision with pedestrian safety being a primary driver, said Kittle.
“All road millage funds are in a separate account drawing interest, and all road millage funds and all accrued interest will only be used for township roads,” said Kittle. “While the township is also upset the only bid submitted for the seven miles of 2019 work came in $600,000 high, it is hoped rebidding the 14 miles of road repair will produce better results as to cost and timing by getting this work slotted in 2020 before the year is filled with construction projects. With the Sashabaw widening project between I-75 and DTE Energy Music Theatre scheduled to be completed this fall, the impact of concert traffic coming in off I-75 should be minimized. We thought this was another important factor in our decision to delay 2019 work.”
Any remaining balance in millage funds at the end of the four years will be used to help co-op public neighborhood road projects by offsetting SAD costs. Those details are not yet worked out, Kittle said.
Kittle said the township is currently reviewing the engineering plans for the 14 miles of 2020 work, projects that will include Sashabaw, Clintonville, Waldon, Flemings Lake and Walters and Andersonville roads, while 2021 work will include Clarkston, White Lake and North Eston roads, and 2022 work will include Maybee and Holcomb roads.
“All plans and financial data are available for anyone who is interested,” said Kittle. “If the township is guilty of anything, it was not being willing to pay an extra $600,000 for the initial seven miles of roadwork and for not wanting to place the entire township in gridlock with both the Sashabaw Road widening plus the seven miles of 2019 road construction.
“Sorry, no conspiracy. Just trying to be responsible for taxpayer money and sensitive about too much construction happening at one time. I do agree with the reader (Powell) that my report card will get an ‘F’ for completed road work under the 2019 millage. Might also bump my grades under ‘fiscal responsibility’ by trying to save $600K and under ‘community’ by trying to avoid total traffic gridlock.”