Royal OakAugust 25, 2014
City provides updates on flood damage, where to turn for help
By Robert Guttersohn
C & G Staff Writer
ROYAL OAK — Discussion of the record rainfall and subsequent flood a week earlier dominated the Aug. 18 City Commission meeting, stretching the relatively thin agenda into more than two hours.
Officials used the meeting to update the commission and the city on total damage to the city and to provide information on where residents can turn for help.
City Manager Don Johnson said nearly half of Royal Oak’s single-family homes and 30 percent of its multifamily units were affected in some way by the storm.
The city’s fire truck with an attached Bronto Skylift is completely disabled, Johnson said.
It was caught in floodwaters while driving southbound on Stephenson Highway. Because it stalled before Dallas Avenue, the truck hadn’t gotten to the portion of Stephenson that eroded away. For that, Johnson saw a silver lining.
“If it had continued, it probably would have collapsed down into the freeway,” Johnson said.
There were few downed wires from the storm, mainly because there wasn’t much wind that came with it.
“We were fortunate that this was basically a rainstorm and not a windstorm,” Johnson said.
Judy Davids, the city’s community engagement specialist, said the city is most concerned with senior citizens who do not have the ability to pull damaged items from their basements.
“We are making an effort to ID elderly people that may need help cleaning up,” Davids said.
She called on residents to be attentive to their senior neighbors.
“If everyone’s house has trash in front of their home and there’s one house that doesn’t, please go knock on that door and find out why,” Davids said.
Residents in attendance at the meeting called for an independent study to determine if anything in the city’s stormwater retention system went wrong.
“If there’s some culpability, it needs to be laid out,” said Kevin Riddle, a Royal Oak resident who also owns a rental unit that was damaged.
The commission, though, already had approved an independent analysis of its sewer capacity back in March. The study was approved in response to complaints from businesses and ahead of a discussion on amending an ordinance that currently requires some commercial property owners who want to remodel to also pay for upgrades to the stormwater system.
Regardless, Johnson said the system did not malfunction. It was overwhelmed by the 292-year event, he said.
“Obviously, our sewer system is not built for an event that comes every 292 years,” Johnson said.
Officials said anyone in the city, even those who only suffered minor damage, should file a claim with the city.
City Attorney David Gillam said the claims are being used to compile data on which areas of the city were hit hardest.
“I think part of our goal is to look at different areas of the city and look at different areas that were hit harder than others,” Gillam said. “If down the road there’s a point where we’ll be evaluating the city’s sewer system, we may want to focus on those areas first.”
Also, hard copies of the reports will be sent to the city’s insurance carrier, Michigan Municipal Risk Management Authority.
Claims must be filed by 4:30 p.m. Sept. 25.
At press time, residents only could request a claim form on the city’s website; the actual downloading of it could not be done on the city’s website, something Commissioner Kyle DuBuc said needed to change.
He said Warren, Berkley, Ferndale and Clawson all have claim forms online.
“Making the process as seamless and accessible as possible would be in everyone’s best interest,” DuBuc said.
Seeking help cleaning out your basement?
The Michigan Community Service Commission is looking to link up volunteers in town to assist those in need of help cleaning out their basements.
To request a volunteer or to make general inquiries, call the number 211 or go to www.bit.ly/floodcleanup semi and complete the flood cleanup assistance form. General updates can be seen at www.michigan.gov/mcsc.