City officials question public interest in Ives Drain

Mecosta County Drain Commissioner Jackie Fitzgerald discussed the proposed Ives Drain project at the Big Rapids City Commission meeting on July 2. City officials are still trying to determine the best way to move forward in repairing damage caused to residential property by the inlet of water. (Pioneer photos/Taylor Fussman)

BIG RAPIDS — Public safety and quality of life are in question regarding the unofficially titled Ives Drain.

During the Big Rapids City Commission meeting on July 2, city officials discussed the most effective way to move forward with finding a solution to repair and prevent further damage caused by the Ives Drain. However, they are unsure whether there is the necessary public interest and need to drive the project forward.

At previous meetings, commissioners have considered holding a broader public meeting to involve more city residents in the conversation, but have not confirmed plans to do so at this point.

“This isn’t a decision that you jump into,” said Mayor Tom Hogenson. “Everybody’s feelings and opinions have to be considered, but we also have to look at is this an issue that impacts quality of life and public safety in our community to the extent that we would petition for a drainage district.”

The unofficially titled Ives Drain is a small inlet of water where a sanitary sewer line had been exposed due to erosion and has been continuously carrying sediment into the Muskegon River. City officials have been in discussions for the past several years about how to address the problem.

The Ives Drain, an inlet of water where a sanitary sewer line had been exposed due to erosion and has been carrying sediment into the Muskegon River, has been a subject of concern for city officials for the past several years due to erosion damage to residents’ property along the drain.

Hogenson said he understands the stress of individual property owners as the erosion is causing the loss of their property, but the city still needs to consider the broader public impact.

“Our focus has been on those people who own property directly, but we haven’t taken any extraordinary measures to round everybody else up who might be accountable under the district and find out what they think about it,” Hogenson said. “I can say from the mayor’s perspective, we wouldn’t do anything until we have done at least that.”

A Mecosta County Drain Commission study completed by a team of surveyors, engineers and architects from Spicer Group proposed one solution would be to develop an approximately $3 million county drain that would channel runoff water into the river.

If this plan is put in place, individuals who own property within the drainage district would pay for the construction by special assessment over a 20-year period.

County Drain Commissioner Jackie Fitzgerald explained plans for the county drain can only move forward if the city passes a resolution to do so, or if property owners abutting the drain sign a petition. She said she was unsure of the specific number of signatures required at this time.

City Manager Mark Gifford said the decision to create the county drain would be simpler for city officials if the affected property owners were voicing more of a need to fix the problem.

He added because the Ives Drain does not seem to have a pressing time concern, it may be prudent to take pictures of the property damage in certain areas and compare them to the same areas next year to see if significant damage is continuously occurring.

One city resident, Patrick McNabb, who owns property abutting the drain and attended the meeting, said at the very least this method of benchmarking the damage would help the city and property owners see what was changing.

Although no decisions were made on holding a public meeting on the Ives Drain, city officials agreed to continue conversations on the most effective way to move forward.

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