Crystal Township Board approves drain consolidation

Posted by Cory Smith • Last Updated 12:33 pm on Monday, January 19 2015

CRYSTAL TOWNSHIP — Blockages, sinkholes and occasional flooding — there’s no shortage of drainage problems that this township’s residents have experienced in the downtown district.

So in an effort to give the county drain commissioner more leeway to address these problems, the Crystal Township Board voted 4-1 on Wednesday to consolidate seven drainage systems within the township into a single drainage district.

Board members authorized a resolution that the board petition Montcalm County for the consolidation of seven drains into one, to be henceforth known as the Smith Consolidated Drain, as well as consolidation of included drainage districts, to now be known as the Smith Consolidated Drain Drainage District.

From left, Crystal Township Trustee Kurt McCracken, Treasurer Ted Padgett, Supervisor Chris Johnston, Clerk Bob Naumann, Trustee Jason Anderson, Montcalm County Drain Commissioner Sandy Raines and Field and Operations Coordinator Veldra Raines review site plans to consolidate seven drains into one drainage system at Wednesday’s Crystal Township Board meeting. — Daily News/Cory Smith

Montcalm County Drain Commissioner Sandy Raines said the consolidation will allow her to clean up the overlapping drainage districts, citing that there is work that needs to be done that exceeds the $5,000 per mile/per year maintenance limitation as stated in the county drainage code.

“The drains are failing in Crystal,” she said. “If I can’t get a consolidation, I’m going to have to notify (residents) that I can’t do anything.”

Raines came to the board last year in an effort to consolidate a total of 18 drainage systems into one, but a vote of the township board failed 2-3, as board members cited concerns about consolidating drains that only affected farmers outside of the downtown area.

However, Raines said drainage issues remain so large in Crystal Township, she drafted another consolidation plan to only include drainage systems located near the downtown district.

“I’m just asking you to start the preceding with this petition, and we can go from there,” she said. “Otherwise the drains in Crystal are not going to be getting worked on. I felt I needed to come back to you again, that it was my responsibility to get something worked out with you guys.”

Raines said in her assessment, she has found several of the county drains are not functioning properly, and the repair work on each drain would exceed the $5,000 limit.

According to Raines, the majority of the tile drains were built in the early 1900s, and tree roots and other items have “severely compromised” the functionality of many of the drains.

Crystal Township Supervisor Chris Johnston, left, and Clerk Bob Naumann review site plans to consolidate seven township drains into one drainage system at Wednesday’s Crystal Township Board meeting. — Daily News/Cory Smith

Raines said because of the maintenance limitation set forth by the drainage code, she was required to either have the township board petition the county, or gather more than 50 petition signatures from residents that use the drains. She described the effort to obtain the signatures from residents as “a hardship.”

According to Raines, property owners located within the seven drainage systems will now only be assessed a fee for work on the new consolidated drain.

Without consolidation, Raines said some homeowners who, by default, used as many as three of the drainage systems, would have been billed for work on all three.

Township Clerk Bob Naumann voted against the resolution, saying he doesn’t believe residents who live on the edge of the district benefit enough from the work that would be done.

“I know 50 signatures is probably a challenge, but (I would prefer) presentations to the people, indicating what the issues are, convincing them that it is a problem, and getting people to tax themselves,” he said. “What we’re doing here as a board is opening up a district that would allow more work to be done. There’s a separation between the drain commission and the township board for a reason.”

Naumann said as a board member, he hadn’t received any complaints from residents about any specific drainage problems.

“It’s difficult to act to fix a problem that I am not aware of. Coming to the board and having us act on it, I think is an easy out. … It’s less work maybe than informing the public what the situations are.”

Board Trustee Kurt McCracken said he is aware of several farmers on the edge of certain drainage systems who had drainage problems before, but after work was performed on adjoining drains, their problems were resolved.

“I know if the drains aren’t working … … as soon as they (did work) it fixed (their) problems. I think it will probably help some of these guys,” he said.

Raines said the resolution passed by the board is only the first step in the process.

Now a board of determination, consisting of three members, will make a ruling on whether the drainage system should be consolidated after an official public hearing is held.


In other matters, the Crystal Township Board:

• Voted unanimously to approve a contract for Trayer Water Wells to put in a new water well at the Crystal Township Fire Department fire station. The contract must yet be agreed upon by Trayer Water Wells.

• Did not take action on a contract which would allow the library board to officially move Crystal Community Library to the Crystal Township Community Center because several pages were missing from the contract.

Library Board Member Kathleen Copp was disappointed by the lack of action.

“I think it’s unfortunate that you had it on the agenda tonight, but no one came prepared with the information you needed,” she said. “We’re waiting for you to recognize (the contract) … so that we can begin to plan. We can’t go ahead with anything until we know that we have that place … and if you wanted the library there, then you need to act on it.”

Township Supervisor Chris Johnston said he doesn’t know why pages of the contract were blank, but he assumed when copies were made, the backside of several pages were not duplicated, citing human error.

The library isn’t expected to open in the community center until October, but library board members have stated they would like to begin the moving process as soon as possible.

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