Nash faces Buxbaum in water resources commissioner race

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published May 10, 2016



OAKLAND COUNTY — The race for Oakland County water resources commissioner took a sad turn last month when Republican candidate Paul Welday died at the age of 57.

Welday, a principal partner at Superior Capitol Consulting and a political strategist, died on April 25 from currently unknown causes. Before passing away, he had registered to run as a Republican for the position of Oakland County water resources commissioner.

His opponent in the Republican primary, Robert Buxbaum, of Oak Park, expressed his condolences to the family of Welday, who is survived behind a wife, Farmington Hills Mayor Pro Tem Valerie Knol, and two children, Nicholas and Natalie.

“I actually asked him to advise my campaign before he decided to go in,” Buxbaum said. “To lose a father when you’re that age, or any age, is horrible. But at that age, you’re not prepared for it.”

Water Resources Commissioner Jim Nash, a Democrat, said he did not know Welday very well, although Nash saw Welday here and there for many years. Nash passed on his condolences as well.

“It’s devastating,” he said.

Welday’s death leaves Buxbaum and Nash to face off against each other in November’s election. According to state law, the votes for Welday in the primary will be counted but disqualified after the final tally.

Buxbaum, a former engineering professor at Michigan State University and a holder of a doctorate in chemical engineering, recently has been visiting some wastewater treatment plants, meeting the people and getting a sense of the technology used.

Speaking on Nash’s time as commissioner, Buxbaum said he didn’t think he was great at dealing with projects and problems. One example he gave was a tunnel to prevent backflows and sanitary sewer overflows being built beneath Middlebelt Road, from just north of Interstate 696 to 13 Mile Road.

According to Nash, Buxbaum was referring to a court-ordered project where, after it was started, it was discovered there was an issue based on the work done by the company contracted to do the project. Pumps in the tunnel would keep water from coming in, but it began affecting the water wells in the surrounding area.

“You don’t know your engineering well if you do stupid things,” Buxbaum said. “While he feels for the environment as much as I do, I don’t think he knows what to do to get to where he wants to go. … In my view, that’s the difference between us.”

To fix the problem, Nash said the project was shortened on the north end from just under 1.5 miles long to about 1.2 miles, and more work is needed on the drain that the tunnel feeds into on the south end.

“It can accept more water and it won’t have a problem with any more backups going into homes and lakes and rivers,” Nash said. “These kinds of things … they do happen in projects like this. That’s why you have insurance to protect yourself.”

Nash said the department is leading a state effort on stormwater and how to deal with it, especially after the August 2014 floods. What he hopes to do is develop green infrastructure, which looks to avoid building big water projects in favor of building smaller projects on people’s properties, in parking lots and in communities.

“If you do that, then the water never gets into any of the storm sewers, never has the potential for the flooding. All those costs of cleaning the water go away.”