Standing offer

NEGAUNEE – The city of Negaunee has again offered to provide about $10,000 in in-kind services to the Eastwood Apostolic Lutheran Church to install a 12-inch overflow pipe to handle excess water from the intermittent spring flooding that occurs on Maas Street/Marquette County Road 492.

The Negaunee City Council approved making the offer Jan. 9 after church board member Leonard Laurila addressed the council for the fifth straight month about the flooding issues. Laurila again called on the city to take responsibility for the water runoff problems in the area.

“The city sold and developed these lots, they are responsible for the drainage,” he said. “We’d like to work with you, and we need this problem solved. And it’s not up to the neighbors, (or) the neighborhood.”

While researching the city’s truck route, about which several Negaunee residents have recently complained, the city manager’s secretary, Ann Ducoli, discovered reference to a 2003 engineering study conducted by U.P. Engineers and Architects on the Maas Street drainage problems.

Among the study’s proposed solutions are the installation of a curb, gutter and enclosed drainage system that would direct the water over the hill to the east; and placement of a culvert beneath Maas and reconstruction of ditches south along Sunset Drive.

Laurila and the church favors the first option, but with an estimated cost in 2003 of $265,000, City Manager Jeff Thornton said it’s not feasible. The second option – almost identical to measures proposed by the city last fall – was estimated in 2003 to cost the city close to $62,000, but with the pipe already donated Thornton said the city could take care of the work for about $10,000 in in-kind labor.

In November, the church voted to deny the easement necessary for the city to install the pipe that would carry the water across church property to the culvert and ditch system on Sunset, with church members saying their neighbors on the street urged them not to approve the measure.

Thornton said the city wants to help the church and neighborhood residents – which was why it has extended the offer through August to install the pipe – but the flooding is on private property. Knowing just what the city’s role should be in addressing such concerns is difficult, Thornton said.

“We want to help them, but they seem to want to use our checkbook to help them,” he said.

Laurila also told the council Jan. 9 that members of the church and 28 community members met with a lawyer before Christmas to discuss options.

“We as a church do not like lawsuits,” he said. “We are against it, but we have to be able to protect our property.”

In other action, the council formally opposed legislative proposals on the state level to allow phone companies to discontinue landline services, which council members said are crucial for emergency services to operate in remote areas across the Upper Peninsula that have inconsistent and sometimes poor quality cell phone reception.

Zach Jay can be reached at 906-486-4401.