Sinkhole site in Fraser expected to be completed in December

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published December 6, 2017

FRASER/CLINTON TOWNSHIP — It’s been nearly 365 days since a hole swallowed up homes and caused a major inconvenience for residents and businesses of Fraser, Clinton Township and Macomb County as a whole. 

Soon, it may appear as if it never happened.

The Christmas Eve interceptor collapse on 15 Mile Road, near Eberlein Drive, led to the destruction of two homes and almost a year’s worth of work. Throughout this year, officials have lauded the smooth process, which included limited pitfalls and a resounding response from the community.

A ribbon-cutting was scheduled for 10 a.m. Dec. 5 in which Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel were anticipated to drive through a ribbon on 15 Mile Road, officially celebrating the reopening of the roadway. Dan Heaton, a spokesperson for the Public Works Office, said the road was expected to be open to traffic an hour after the ceremony.

“I keep saying everyone is going to have a chance to get to grandma’s house for Christmas in that neighborhood,” Miller said.

She said the project has been ahead of schedule and under budget, even though some predicted that work on the new sewer interceptor could have turned into a lengthy three-year process. She acknowledged that while some residents feel the process hasn’t been swift enough, it has gone mostly without a hitch.

“People are very, very excited,” she said. “Obviously, they see the concrete being paved, roads being paved, the sidewalks being restored, the driveway approaches being done. They’ve watched it all the way through the summer months.

“They’re very enthusiastic about the outcome and see the end of it now. Hopefully after Christmas, it will just be a bad dream.”

Hackel said the project involved two main aspects: getting sewage flowing again, and remedying the condition of the road, which sits between Utica and Hayes roads.

“This was kind of a promise made that this would be done within a year, and it’s a promise kept,” Hackel said.

He said the county was very fortunate that it was able to work with the affected residents to make the process as painless as possible. He and Miller said that going through court proceedings was not ideal, with each stating that both sides were satisfied with the outcome. According to them, no residents expressed complaints.

While two homes were bulldozed — one on 15 Mile Road and one on Eberlein Street — another home, which currently sits as the second home on Eberlein, off 15 Mile, may possibly continue to house individuals in the future due to a lack of structural damage.

“Mark and I both said, ‘Listen, you might get sinkhole insurance if you live in Fort Lauderdale, but probably not in Fraser, Michigan,’” Miller said. “Macomb County is better than this, and we wanted to make sure these residents were made whole. They were.”

Hackel said different departments within the county worked together to make sure businesses would be OK, and that the process would be expedited.

“I don’t know of any other project where that has ever been done before, and I don’t know if any other county has ever done that before,” Hackel said. “You see the remedies going through the court process, and we tried to figure out, how do we bypass that and come to some agreement?

“I look at that as, that’s a commitment on behalf of the government to try to figure out, if that were us — if that were our homes, a relative or friend — how would we want to be treated? How would we want that to be handled?”

Transparency was also a major focal point, he said, recalling how at high noon on her first day as public works commissioner, Miller was at the scene of the sinkhole talking to residents and the media.

“It reminded me of a major investigation from law enforcement, when we have some kind of a high-profile murder case or whatever,” he said. “Here she’s out there updating the media because the important nature of that is to get it to the public and get them to understand it. … I’ve never seen that out of the office before.”

Fraser Mayor Pro-Tem Kathy Blanke expressed appreciation toward Miller and the county, saying it’s important that those involved heavily the past year realize the positive impact they had on residents in the area.

“I know they finished a lot earlier than they thought,” Blanke said. “I’m grateful for the residents who live in that area, and the town, because it will bring normality for the holidays. I’m grateful for (Miller) personally for doing such a fine job for Fraser.”

Clinton Township Supervisor Bob Cannon said he originally heard Dec. 22 as a target date. The project will be completed in less than one year’s time. 

“Residents had a big challenge. Businesses had a big challenge,” Cannon said. “We did everything we could.”