Grosse Pointe Farms Council Defers Flood Questions Until Thursday Meeting
The city is asking residents to send in any questions they have before Thursday's meeting so the questions can be researched and more complete answers can be given at the meeting.
Despite setting a special informational meeting for Thursday for residents whose homes flooded this past weekend for the second time in a matter of months, more than 20 attended the regularly scheduled Grosse Pointe Farms council meeting.
Their message was clear and unified: Determine and fix the problem.
Mayor James Farquhar and the council members told the unsettled crowd they would take note of their questions and have answers on Thursday. Answering questions Monday, Farquhar said, would be premature as officials are still investigating exactly what happened.
The exchange became somewhat heated at times when at least one resident had a lengthy list of questions and was urged to submit them in writing rather than turning the council session into a cross examination procedure.
The resident was allowed to finish stating his questions after protests from the crowd about allowing him to enter his questions into the record since the meetings are recorded. He agreed to also submit them in writing to ensure council and officials the opportunity to look into them before Thursday's meeting.
Hundreds of residents woke late Friday and early Saturday to flooded basements after a storm that rolled through the area. According to a letter delivered to residents from the city, the pump station lost power from DTE, bumping the pumps offline when they are most needed.
The area affected is considered the inland district of Grosse Pointe Farms and the only portion of the city served by a combined storm water and sewage removal system. The other areas of the city were taken off the combined system in the 1990s, according to council members.
For the residents, this weekend's flooding will mark their second time filing a claim with their insurance carriers since May–the last time the pump station lost all its sources of power and homes flooded. At that time city officials described the events as unlikely to happen again, saying the combination of a 100-year storm and repeated power outages by DTE that cut power to the pump station were responsible.
Claims filed with the city's insurance company were denied because the law guiding such claims requires the claimant to show proof that the city had knowledge or should have known about the problem but did not act to address it.
Among the concerns expressed by residents Monday:
- the city taking responsibility for the problem
- the city taking action to fix the problem
- the city not blaming weather or DTE for the problem
- losing their own homeowners insurance because of the repeated claims
- why the inland district remains the only portion of the city on a combined sewer system
- what steps are being taken now to ensure this will not happen again
- whether an outside organization should be analyzing the work that the current engineering firm is and has been doing
- what is going to be done to compensate or reimburse the residents, many of whom will have cleaned, sanitized and repaired their basements twice
Director of Public Services Terry Brennan told Patch earlier in the day his hope is to be able to provide answers at Thursday's meeting. He recognizes the meeting will likely begin with a pointing-the-finger mentality but he is hopeful the group will be able to move forward and get to what truly matters: How the problem will be fixed.
"They shouldn't be put in this situation," Brennan said. "Residents are justifiably angry."
As of Monday afternoon, the city had received 325 complaints related to basement flooding from this past weekend, Brennan said, noting it was about the same number as reported in May.
Since May, Brennan said more than 1,000 feet of the sewer system has been snaked and inspected but no major problems have been discovered. The Farms system is working as it should, he said.
One issue that was not likely thought to be a regular problem following the May flooding is power. The pump station has two main power sources plus a backup generator, which means if power is cut to both main lines, the pump station should still be able to operate on the generator's power.
The generator was installed as another backup years ago after the pump station went down. Officials felt having three backups was sufficient to address the power concern.
This summer, however, DTE officials have appeared before four of the five Grosse Pointe councils to answer questions about service to the area after repeated outages and brownouts that lasted days. Many also reported losing appliances because of the brownout conditions.
Brennan said the source of power and whether it's sufficient to serve the pump station is among the many questions officials also have. He'll be sending out a notice of claim Tuesday to those residents who have notified the city of flooding in their homes.
In addition to the city council, several city employees will be present on Thursday as well as the Bloomfield Hills engineering firm used by the Farms, Hubble, Roth and Clarke. Brennan said an invitation has been extended to DTE but it was not clear Monday night whether a representative will be attending.
Residents are encouraged to send in their questions now in order to allow city officials the opportunity to research the answer if necessary so answers can actually be given Thursday.
Questions can be submitted by email, by calling city offices at 313-885-6600 or even by dropping a written list off at city hall.