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Lawsuit driving up cost of Fraser sinkhole repair

Construction near the site of the sinkhole on the Fraser-Clinton Township border in Macomb County.
Bryce Huffman
Michigan Radio
Construction near the site of the sinkhole on the Fraser-Clinton Township border in Macomb County.

Macomb County will have to spend an extra $5 to $10 million to fix a major sinkhole on 15 Mile Road in Fraser. County officials say a lawsuit is to blame.

Sterling Heights is suing the county to avoid paying an estimated $22 million to help repair the sinkhole, claiming it was the county’s fault it occurred. It is one of ten cities in the sinkhole’s drainage district.

One of the two counts in the lawsuit against Macomb County was dismissed by a judge earlier this week

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel says despite what the lawsuit alleges, Sterling Heights is only being asked to pay its fair share of the sinkhole cost.

“Everybody is paying the same, no matter where you’re at in those 11 communities, you’re paying the same rate,” Hackel said. “So to say that Sterling Heights is paying a third of it is because they’ve got more people that are participating in this system, meaning there are more residents if you will.”

Candice Miller, the Macomb County public works commissioner, says the lawsuit almost halted the project and will add to its overall costs.

“We’re anticipating between $5 and $10 million additional costs, just because of this lawsuit, no other reason,” Miller said.

“The other ten cities in the drainage district have been on board with us, and it’s just unfortunate that one city’s ill-advised decision will cost the rest of them,” she added.

According to Miller, the project is still on track, but the lawsuit is affecting a bond sale that would help pay for the sinkhole fix.

Sterling Heights Mayor Mike Taylor has offered to drop the lawsuit if the drainage district can sue the county itself.

“The bonds can be sold at the initial rate, no additional money, no penalty, all the savings that you’d want,” Taylor said, “but just give us the ability to protect our rate payers.”

Bryce Huffman was Michigan Radio’s West Michigan Reporter and host of Same Same Different. He is currently a reporter for Bridge Detroit.
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