Jeff Yaroch State Representative

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House approves $3 million for Fraser sinkhole

The city of Fraser would get $3 million to help repair a football field-sized sinkhole under legislation passed by the Michigan House.

House members approved the bill on Wednesday in a 101-7 vote to provide the supplemental appropriation to fix the sewer pipe that collapsed on Christmas Eve, prompting the evacuation of 23 families when a huge sinkhole formed.

“Time is of the essence when it comes to the sinkhole emergency,” Rep. Jeff Yaroch (R-Richmond), who sponsored the funding bill, said in a news release. “We have to act now to protect public safety and health. If we have another heavy rain, we can’t afford to have raw sewage backing up into our residents’ homes and polluting the Clinton River, Lake St. Clair and beyond.”

Money approved by the House would go toward building a long-term sewage bypass around the sewer collapse that caused the sinkhole. The project is needed to prevent sewage from backing up into homes and waterways.

Democratic Rep. William Sowerby of Clinton Township says the sinkhole has caused 600,000 people in 11 communities serviced by the pipe to experience hardship especially those nearest to the sinkhole, which also has forced the closure of 15 Mile Road between Utica and Hayes roads.

According to county officials, the total cost of the project is estimated to be $70 million to $75 million. Homeowners in the 11 impacted communities could end up paying an average of $55 more a year to finance the repairs.

Future work for the rest of the interceptor, including coating the pipe with a protective layer to prevent future leaks, could hike the bill to $150 million.

Shelby Township-based Dan’s Excavating last week was awarded a $33 million bid to repair to collapse. That work is expected to be complete by September.

Wednesday’s vote saw a bipartisan show of support with a sense of urgency. Earlier in the day, the House Appropriations Committee approved the measure.

“This is a team effort to get through this across Macomb County,” said Rep. Pamela Hornberger (R-Chesterfield Township). “And the urgency can’t be stressed enough.”

Sowerby, a former Clinton Township treasurer, said the sinkhole has caused an enormous strain on Macomb homeowners and business operators.

“Many residents and businesses of my district are severely impacted, along with several families having lost their homes, due to this infrastructure collapse,” he said in the news release.

Officials have said the Dec. 24, 2016 collapse was caused by small leaks in the pipe that allowed water to escape and fine silt to be sucked in, until the pipe eventually became clogged and collapsed. It was the third time the line has collapsed since the 1970s.

Twenty of the families that were evacuated have been allowed to return to their homes. Three houses near the sewer collapse had to be condemned and are being purchased by Macomb County.

The county has declared a state of emergency through March 31 after the state House voted in January to extend the declaration in order to help coordinate local, state and federal resources to address the sinkhole.

The legislation must still be approved by the Senate, which is expected to vote on the bill next week.

— From staff and wire reports

To read the entire story at the Macomb Daily, click the link:  http://www.macombdaily.com/article/MD/20170323/NEWS/170329792

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