Traverse City Record-Eagle

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November 3, 2013

Electrocution was chief concern with splash pad

TRAVERSE CITY — City officials feared much more than spewed sewage as they scrambled to sort out problems with their sparkling new splash pad days after Clinch Park's ballyhooed June reopening:

Their sudden realization that contractors failed to obtain a host of required permits -- most significantly an electrical permit for the entire park -- raised concerns that someone could be electrocuted in or around the new splash pad water attraction.

Electrocution wasn't a far-fetched notion; in June 2011 a Mancelona teen died of electrocution and drowning while swimming in the city's Clinch Park Marina, and the city remains embroiled in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Ultimately, problems that besieged the splash pad weren't tied to electrical systems failings. Instead, the water feature rained sewage-tainted water on unsuspecting children, the ugliest and most public failing rooted in a series of questionable decisions and shoddy workmanship.

Details of numerous problems, including contractors' failure to obtain myriad permits prior to Clinch Park's June 25 reopening, emerged from a city report ordered by Traverse City Mayor Michael Estes after the splash pad sewage debacle. City commissioners will learn report details during their meeting Monday at 7 p.m. at the Governmental Center.

"To date the commissioners have not had a final report on who was responsible for the failures that led to this public mishap," Estes said.

Host of flaws

The city report and documents obtained by the Record-Eagle from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality through the state Freedom of Information Act shed new light on breakdowns and failings that emerged as city officials scurried to open the new Clinch Park in time for the National Cherry Festival.

The splash pad's open-closed-reopened status that week culminated in a June 30 incident when numerous children were sprayed with sewage-tainted water as they frolicked in the new, $360,000 water feature.

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