Clawson officials discuss city’s infrastructure needs

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published June 23, 2020

 A graphic shows the estimated road needs and costs of Clawson’s 39.4 miles of local and major roadways, which is based on a 2019 PASER pavement condition study.

A graphic shows the estimated road needs and costs of Clawson’s 39.4 miles of local and major roadways, which is based on a 2019 PASER pavement condition study.

Graphic by Jason Clancy


CLAWSON — Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Clawson City Council listened to a March 4 presentation on proposed capital improvement plans regarding the city’s infrastructure — local and major roads, the water system, and combined sewers.

The purpose of the presentation, given by Clawson Public Works consultant Harry Drinkwine and Anderson, Eckstein & Westrick Inc. Senior Project Engineer Michael Smith, was to identify the city’s infrastructure needs and the costs associated with them as a tool for establishing future funding.

In 2017, the city authorized AEW to conduct a PASER pavement condition survey and prepare a road asset management plan. The study diagnosed the city’s 39.4 miles of roadways, consisting of 76% local and 24% major roads. It assigned a rating to each street, from 1 to 10, with 1 being the worst and 10 being the best.

Based on the overall rating average, Clawson’s roads received a 4.78 rating, with more than half of local roads falling in the 2-4 range. Smith said that in the years since the survey, several roads’ conditions have worsened.

Without knowing a specific road funding budget, Drinkwine and Smith came up with a five-year capital improvement program for local roads. The proposed projects include the reconstruction of portions of West Selfridge Boulevard, Redruth Boulevard, Broadacre Avenue, Dreon Drive and North Washington Avenue; the resurfacing of portions of Dreon Drive and School Street; an annual joint and crack sealing program; and an annual concrete pavement repair program for a total of $7,129,000.

“We just looked at what’s the worst out there, and we came up with this list,” Smith said. “With the road projects, when we do finally figure out what type of budget and what projects we can do, we also need to look at water mains and sewers, as well.”

Historically, Drinkwine said, the city would spend approximately $350,000 a year on patching, or removing failed sections of concrete and certain side streets and repairing the concrete.

“In more recent years, I was lucky to get $70,000 to $80,000,” Drinkwine said. “Because we have cut that significantly in recent years, the roads are deteriorating faster than we’re even trying to address them. It’s just spiraling out of control.”

Lori Fisher, the city’s finance director, said Clawson receives approximately $752,000 annually in Act 51 revenue, which is supplemented largely by gas sales.

“Of that, about $100,000 goes to paying off our bond payment,” Fisher said. “Of course, we have to be careful how we spend this because it does have to be allocated properly.”

The city’s capital improvement program ceased around 2004, she said, and the city has been spending what it brings in every year just on maintenance. She said it has approximately $307,000 annually for local road improvements.

Smith and Drinkwine also suggested a five-year capital improvement plan for major roads. The proposed projects include South Main Street repairs; resurfacing of Elmwood Avenue, from North Crooks Road to North Selfridge Boulevard; a joint sealing program on 14 Mile Road, from Crooks to Rochester roads; and an annual pavement marking program for a total of $2,575,000.

The total estimated cost to fix Clawson’s local and major roads is $77,838,000.

Of Clawson’s approximately 45.43 miles of water mains, Drinkwine said approximately 60% were installed in the 1920s and are made of cast iron, which is brittle and rots easily.

The proposed five-year capital improvement plan water main program includes water main projects on North Washington Avenue, Dreon Drive, East 14 Mile Road, Rochester Road, West Maple Road and Lerner Avenue, as well as a lead service replacement program, for a total of $4,971,000.

Clawson Department of Public Works Director Matthew Hodges said the city estimates that there are approximately 70 lead service lines in Clawson. To date, he said, it had 53 confirmed lead lines and 1,200 lines of unknown composition.

“We’re handing out door hangers. So far, we got probably 200 responses,” Hodges said.

The total estimated cost to replace water mains that have not yet been replaced is $65,495,900.

“The benefits of a water capital improvement plan include increased water pressure and flow, which equals better fire protection and home water use, reduced water main breaks and water loss, and more uniform distribution of water throughout the city,” Smith said.

The combined sewer system in Clawson totals 42.76 miles, with more than 80% of pipe sizes ranging from 10 to 21 inches.

In 2007 and 2008, Drinkwine said, the city received a $1 million grant to clean its entire sewer system, and in 2018, the DPW also cleaned some areas.

“We suggested a sewer rehab program to get the city back on track for an annual cleaning and televising program,” Smith said. “Essentially, what we did here for the five-year program was break the city into five districts. We’d clean a district per year.”

The estimated cost of the five-year sewer rehab program is $2,644,000. The overall sewer capital improvement program is estimated to cost $10,576,000 — or four rounds of the five-year program.

Benefits of a sewer capital improvement plan, Smith said, include reducing the number of emergency repairs that create sinkholes, road cave-ins and sewer backups.

The total cost for the local and major road, water, and sewer capital improvement plans amounts to approximately $153,090,900.

On June 16, the Clawson City Council unanimously approved the purchase of a Sewerin UT-9000 Pipe & Cable Locator kit for locating water mains, water services, sewers, sewer leads, electrical cables, gas services and mains, and fiber optics for the cost of $5,490.

“I think it’s a really great start. I think that we’re going to have a lot of conversations about this,” Fisher said. “Somehow, we’re going to have to figure this out and get a game plan.”

Funding ideas officials discussed included a possible millage, increased water and sewer rates, bonds, and grants.