Drain commissioner gives report, public hearing held

MARQUETTE — Marquette County Drain Commissioner Mike Farrell gave a status update on several items from 2017 to the Marquette County Board of Commissioners at a May 15 meeting.

“Last year, we reviewed the dam on Lake Independence, met with Lake Independence Association, provided them with the report that was sent into the state,” Farrell said. “We review that on a three-year basis; take pictures of it, measure the cracks to make sure they haven’t expanded any more.”

Farrell noted that the dam on Lake Independence has a “low level risk of failure,” which allows it to be reviewed on a three-year basis, rather than the annual basis that higher-risk dams are reviewed on.

He also shared an update on the 2017 maintenance of the Badger Creek Drain, noting that the sediment is cleaned out annually, but also additional maintenance was performed last year on the drain between Orchard Street and Werner Street in Marquette Township.

Farrell said he works with cities, townships, communities and residents to address storm water issues.

“We are always inspecting and looking at storm water retention basins and looking at the maintenance and upkeep of those across the county,” he said.

One major issue he tries to address with residents is proper handling of leaves, as leaves can block drainage areas.

“One of the ongoing issues that seems to occur every fall and every spring, we have a leaf issue in the county. Lots of trees on lots of private property; some people manage their leaves well, some people kind of rake them into the low areas, which ultimately tend to be our drainage areas,” Farrell said. “When they block those drainage areas, it not only causes problems on their property, but problems on downstream property and potentially upstream property, so I work a lot with local residents.”

Farrell noted that the drainage regulations are in the process of being posted on the county’s website so they are available for residents and developers to review.

Also at the meeting, a closeout public hearing was held for the completion of the Blackrocks Brewery Michigan Community Development Block Grant, which was a requirement for the project. The goals of the hearing were to provide a final report on the project and give the public a chance to provide input.

In August 2016, the county board had approved Blackrocks Brewery’s application, through Northern Initiatives, for a loan from the County of Marquette Community Development Block Grant Regional Revolving Loan Fund. Northern Initiatives, which is a nonprofit community development financial institution, administers the grant funds for the Upper Peninsula.

Since the 2016 approval, Blackrocks has fulfilled the requirements of the project, which were creating three new full-time equivalent positions and filling them with at least 51 percent low- to moderate-income employees within a two-year period.

“They hit that mark in the two-year period, which is fantastic, so this project now is done with this particular job reporting requirement,” Dale Cook, of Northern Initiatives, said during his report to the board.

At the close of Cook’s report, Marquette County Administrator Scott Erbisch said he felt it was a “very good loan” and “created some jobs and very good assistance to Blackrocks, which has been expanding.”

No members of the public commented regarding the project during the public hearing session Tuesday.