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On the horizon in Harrison Township in 2020

By: Nick Mordowanec | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published January 10, 2020

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HARRISON TOWNSHIP — A strong 2020 in Harrison Township starts with officials and residents crossing their fingers for a mild winter season.

On June 4, 2019, Lake St. Clair set a new record-high monthly mean water level — up 10 inches from May 31, 2018, and up 5 inches from the record high in 1986.

Harrison Township Supervisor Ken Verkest is already wary of snow accumulation in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and in the Canadian province of Ontario.

“The thing I’m not looking forward to is the additional high water and flooding issues in 2020,” Verkest said. “It’s hard to predict how high the water will be until we know how bad the winter is.”

Converting an old fire hall near Jefferson Avenue and South River Road into a miniature station for the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office is also on the agenda. Verkest said it needs to provide a certain amount of locker space for up to 14 officers.

Fire Station No. 1, on Crocker Boulevard, “needs to be freshened up,” he said. That includes separate facilities for men and women, as well as adhering to newer National Fire Protection Association standards and procedures that address things like gear decontamination.

“We know better now that sometimes exposure to smoke, and some of the byproducts of a simple house fire, can be laden with agents potentially known to link to cancer,” Verkest said.

If no retirements occur within the Fire Department, there are expected to be two to four hires this calendar year.

The township is utilizing a stormwater, asset management and wastewater, or SAW, grant to use cameras to view the sewers underground to observe for mineral deposits and even cut into potentially restricted areas. They can identify sewer cracks, for example.

Verkest said these cameras are beneficial for finding problems before they worsen, leading to higher township costs that are passed down to taxpayers in increased sewer rates.

Improvements to the system may include pipe-bursting technology, involving a literal ball being dragged through the sewer, and replacing old infrastructure. It’s a large multimillion-dollar project, he said, that involves cost bonding — which the supervisor said could save hundreds of thousands in the long run, essentially paying for itself and the burden on the overall system.

Road infrastructure is just as big of an issue in Harrison Township as anywhere else.

Jefferson Avenue will be repaved, from 14 Mile Road on and around Shook Road to the Interstate 94 bridge. It’s about a $4.1 million project, with the Macomb County Department of Roads securing about 80% of those costs through federal funding. The county is splitting the remaining costs with the township at a clip of 10% each, or approximately $577,000 of township costs.

That project is slated for a spring bid, with work to be conducted early in the 2020 construction season.

Matching dollars through special assessment districts will repave residential roads including Pineridge Street, Chartier Street and Ponchartrain Street. Those are 50% matches with the county, with engineering expected to be completed by February and construction beginning early in the 2020 season.

“There really isn’t any funding for residential roads other than these projects, but paying 50% is better than 100%,” Verkest said.

A new water access point was announced by Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel at his 2019 State of Macomb County address in December. The point will be installed at the mouth of the spillway, near Jefferson Avenue and Crocker Boulevard.

Verkest called it “great news.” However, the township has to apply for another grant to match costs so no general fund dollars go toward it. He expects another grant to be applied for in the spring. The access point should come to fruition in 2021.

The supervisor said marijuana facilities within township borders will likely be discussed at length.

Asked if the subject of marijuana facilities in Harrison Township has drawn criticism or acclaim from residents, Verkest said it’s been rather calm on that front.

The township already has roughly 23 medical marijuana-based businesses in areas of growing, processing, transporting and testing. Of those 23, some are open and functioning, others are close to opening, and others have applied and are marketing to investors and going through the licensing and state qualifications.

“The model is that anyone who grows medical marijuana wants to be in recreational as well,” Verkest said. “Growing is growing.”

He added that “this isn’t a moral decision,” saying that if a law is passed, then elected officials have to duly follow that law. It will be something done publicly and transparently.

“The area is industrial; it’s kind of removed and isolated and trapped between I-94 and Selfridge Air Base,” Verkest said. “So, it’s not in someone’s backyard.”

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