Mixed Response to Improvements in Chesterfield Hills

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Wednesday, September 2, 2015, 10:05 am
By: 
Coleen Moyerbrailean

Walk through the Chesterfield Hills neighborhood and you will notice some changes underfoot. These include new curbs and ramps, newly paved streets, and sidewalks added to traffic circles and triangles.

Between the new curbs and ramps, though, many sidewalks remain in a state of disrepair.

The changes make it "eas[ier] for kids to negotiate" crossing the street according to Chesterfield Hills homeowner, Maria Lapinski, who adds that she is "happy with the whole process," and that her biggest concern right now is whether the city will keep the circle and triangle sidewalks cleared in the winter.

Residents Wendy Paskus and Eliot Singer agree that the curb, ramp, and resurfacing project that was completed was well done, but they have reservations. They have both owned homes in the neighborhood for more than twenty years, and believe the City has a history of promising to repair sidewalks and to improve the water and sewage lines in the neighborhood without following through.

According to Singer, "Fixing sidewalks was supposed to be part of a major infrastructure fix for the neighborhood starting this year. But the city decided it didn’t have enough money for a complete fix, so it did a short-term fix for the streets and installed ADA ramps at corners.... I think most of us are glad something has been done, but the ADA ramps are only a first step, and we want to be sure the job gets finished."

Asked why parts of the project was completed but the sidewalks were not fixed, City Engineer Carl Fedders explained that the City doesn't want to repair the sidewalks (which will be done largely at the homeowners’ expense) until the water and sewer lines are improved. This is because in many cases the lines from a home to the street have to be dug up, and consequently the sidewalks will be dug up. Fedders doesn't want homeowners "to pay twice for new sidewalks." Paskus recalled reading a City of East Lansing memo that stated that milling and paving the roads "will improve driving conditions for 5-7 years. She wonders if "it will be that long before the City begins the water/sewer and sidewalk improvements."

The difficulty in planning this type of work, according to Fedders, is "coordinat[ing] water, sewer, and sidewalk at the same time, with enough funds." The May 13, 2015 memo that Paskus recalled reading was from Scott House, Director of Public Works, to City Manager George Lahanas. It revealed that the budget for capital improvements was "significantly impacted" by the "failure of Proposal 1." House wrote that "infrastructure renewal in neighborhoods is being delayed until a sustainable funding stream becomes available for local street work."

The same memo outlines four options for dealing with Chesterfield Hills infrastucture issues in light of the budget crisis. The options ranged from doing nothing and "wait[ing] for road funding to improve" to milling and paving all the neighborhoods street, installing ADA ramps on all corners, and "perform[ing] spot sewer repairs" at a cost far exceeding the City’s ability to pay.

The Council voted to accept option #3 at its June 2, 2015 meeting. This option allows the City Manager to allocate $370,000 for milling and paving of the streets east of Highland, which House stated were rated in "poor" condition. It was determined that Glenmoor and Highland would not be paved. Glenmoor has a "history of water main breaks" and according to House, has "a water main that needs replacement sooner than later." House explained that Highland was excluded from improvements because it is the best street in the neighborhood with a "fair" rating and "has a large diameter sewer that might need work or consideration."

Public Works has been "televising and cleaning" the sewers in the eastern part of Chesterfield Hills, according to  House, and they are "seeing concerns in the sewer system." When asked what the timeline was for completing the sewer, water, and sidewalk improvements necessary for Chesterfield Hills, Fedders stated there is "no timeline," but he and his boss, Scott House, are "working diligently on it."

Chesterfield Hills is the one of the oldest planned neighborhoods in the city. It began as a neighborhood for the families of professors at Michigan State College in 1916. According to Fedders, the existing water and sewer lines are almost 100 years old.

House and Fedders are looking to have a five and ten year budget plan for the improvements by this fall.

 

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