Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller blasted the state Senate Republican Leader on Wednesday after he orchestrated cutbacks in proposed state assistance to help pay for repairs at the Fraser sinkhole.
Miller accused Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, a fellow Republican, of “playing games” with the political process while Macomb, the state’s third-largest county, has dealt with emergency fixes to a massive sewer interceptor that collapsed on Christmas Eve.
“We have a collapsed pipe that serves more than half a million people and more than 40,000 businesses in Macomb County. Sen. Arlan Meekhof is playing games while the rest of us are working to get this problem fixed,” Miller said in a terse statement.
“… State Senate Majority Leader Meekhof — he has the wrong job title. He’s not a leader. Term limits can’t come fast enough for some people,” Miller added. “It is incredibly pompous and arrogant for one man to stand in the way of a project designed to keep raw sewage out of 150,000 Macomb County basements and raw sewage from being discharged into our magnificent Great Lakes.”
What set Miller off was a 20-17 vote in the GOP-controlled Senate to reject a $3 million appropriation for sinkhole repairs that was approved earlier this week by the state House. The House, which also has a Republican majority, approved the grant by a vote of 101-7. The senators instead followed Meekhof’s plan to offer a $5 million interest-free loan to the county.
Whether by accident or by design, a lengthy Miller press release incorrectly spelled Meekhof’s name. The west Michigan senator, who will be term-limited in 2018, was not fazed by the sharp criticism from Miller, a former congresswoman and secretary of state who is likely one of the best-known politicians in Michigan.
According to the Lansing-based MIRS news agency, when Meekhof was alerted to the public works commissioner’s remarks by a reporter, his response was “Candice who?”
The $3 million would be used to partially offset the cost of the bypass pipe system that was installed by the Macomb County Office of Public Works earlier this year at a cost of more than $12 million. The bypass prevented the discharge of raw sewage into the Clinton River and Lake St. Clair after an initial dump of 12 million gallons of waste occurred on Dec. 26-27, just days before Miller took office.
Under Miller’s supervision, the Macomb Interceptor Drain Drainage District (MIDD) will sell municipal bonds to finance the $75 million repair project. Gov. Snyder declared a state emergency in Macomb County after the sinkhole forced nearly two dozen families to be evacuated from their homes for about two weeks. Three homes were ultimately condemned. Two of those houses were demolished last week.
Next week, contractors on site of the collapse along 15 Mile Road will begin digging out the shaft – a hole roughly 300 feet long by 30 feet wide and 60 feet deep – which is necessary to replace the damaged pipe.
“I am getting ready to go out and borrow millions of dollars to pay for this work. The state House and the governor’s office understand this. They are trying to help,” Miller said. “Now, Meekof decides he wants to loan me $5 million. If I had $5 million to pay him back, I wouldn’t need the money in the first place.”
Photo of sewer bypass pipes: The Macomb Daily