BY ANNE STANTON
---- — TRAVERSE CITY— A recent pounding rainstorm caused Kids Creek at Munson Medical Center to once again rush past steel sheet piling and flow into an empty stream bed.
There was no damage or fallout from last week's rainstorm that dumped more than 2 inches on the region in a day, but the same couldn't be said about a July thunderstorm. That's when basements flooded at two homes just east of the Kids Creek restoration project.
Heavy rain revealed a construction flaw in the $2 million creek project that will transform the existing 900-foot straight channel into a natural, 1,275-foot meandering stream bordered by native plants and trees.
Mike Kramer said his basement was cleaned compliments of the Kids Creek contractor, who accepted responsibility. Munson officials also housed him for free for about 20 days at Munson Manor Hospitality House.
"Munson and the contractor stepped up to the table and made things right,” said Kramer. "I know things happen, and they’re making it good for me."
After the July rainstorm nearly a dozen workers arrived at the scene. It took some time to figure out what happened, Kramer said.
"(Munson employee) Scott LaBonte was standing there in the alley and said, 'This doesn’t make sense.'" Kramer said. "He walked about 20 yards from a manhole cover to the creek, and he could see a valley of where the water was going to and he looked down and he said, "Here’s your problem.' There was an open sewer pipe that they missed capping. And water ran right in there; three inches of water went into my basement, plus this black mud silt sludge."
The sanitary pipeline may have served a former building razed to make room for the new cancer center and creek. Workers cut off the sanitary pipeline and filled it with concrete so it wouldn't happen again, Kramer said.
Kramer said Steve Tongue, Munson Healthcare's vice president of facilities, personally apologized to him and Kent Walton, president of Molon Excavating, immediately offered to pay for everything. Walton said his company had hired a subcontractor, which missed capping the sanitary pipeline.
Because Kramer's bathroom and shower were located in the basement, he moved out, although his neighbor didn't. Kramer's expenses included a 10-day stay at a Suttons Bay motel bill, meals, and complete restoration.
“We had everything safety-tested," Walton said. "We tested the air, which his insurance company would never have paid for. I paid for it out of my pocket with no insurance. Out of my hip pocket. We’ve done everything in our power and then some. Trust me. It isn’t Munson’s problem. It’s my problem. Munson hired me to build this thing.”
Walton said it was fortunate the flooding happened before the creek was opened. He believes Kramer could have moved back sooner.
Munson spokesman Dale Killingbeck declined comment other than to say he understood a leak caused some damage and the contractor took full responsibility.
"We understand he is working with the homeowners to restore that damage to their satisfaction,” he said.