Traverse City Record-Eagle

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October 27, 2013

Residents struggle with erosion, runoff

TRAVERSE CITY — Briant Thomas wasn’t happy when his son ruined his new school shoes playing in a muddy construction lot near their home.

Most of Thomas’ ire is directed at local officials, whose inability or unwillingness to address erosion and water runoff problems led to the muddy mess next door.

“When inspectors have went by, there’s been no responsibility taken by either the township, or the county,” Thomas said during a Grand Traverse County Commission meeting this month.

Thomas, of Garfield Township, said soil erosion and storm water runoff ordinance violations plague construction-pocked Lone Tree Subdivision where he lives. He and other county residents said there’s no simple way to obtain meaningful help from local government officials when it comes to such problems.

“You have two different agencies in the county, and neither of them wants to get involved,” Peninsula Township resident Alan Gray said about similar problems near his home.

Gray referred to the county’s soil erosion and sedimentation control department -- part of the county’s construction code office -- and Peninsula Township government, which, along with other townships, is in charge of enforcing storm water ordinances.

The county’s elected drain commissioner oversaw all those duties until 2012, when county board members voted to shift soil erosion enforcement duties to the construction code office.

Commissioner Larry Inman opposed the change then, and continues to do so.

“I think it leads to a great deal of confusion on the public’s part, and quite frankly, on the part of the county commission,” Inman said.

Commissioners later allowed storm water enforcement agreements with the townships to expire. Now township officials are responsible for what used to be a drain commissioner’s responsibility.

County Drain Commissioner Kevin McElyea’s salary dropped from about $65,000 with benefits to $7,000 with no benefits after the county board stripped his responsiblities.

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