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Macomb Communities Get Temporary $20M Loan To Handle Sinkhole Related Issues

FRASER (WWJ) -- The Macomb County Board of Commissioners approved a $20-million, 120-day loan as work continues to fix a massive sinkhole in Fraser.

The $20 million will be shared among 11 communities that make up the Macomb Interceptor Drainage District and are being hit the hardest after the sinkhole opened up at 15 Mile Rd. between Utica and Hayes back on Christmas Eve.

A fix for the first length of the interceptor is estimated to cost between $70 million and $80 million. Macomb Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller said the new financial flexibility will help as work continues on a temporary sewer bypass line, due to be completed in early March.

"It gives us that amount of flexibility until such time as we actually finance by a long-term bond, which we intend to be going into the market here shortly," Miller said.

Miller said bids are also going out to six firms for estimates on the project. Also on Thursday night, the city of Sterling Heights retained a law firm to handle any legal issues that arise from the sinkhole.

A statement from the city says the firm Sullivan, Ward, Asher and Patton has extensive experience in all aspects of construction law including underground infrastructure.

Mayor Michael C. Taylor said officials can't simply pass on costs to homeowners that may have been avoided by due care and timely maintenance. But city officials maintain the effort is not intended to impede the progress in repairing the sinkhole.

"You bring an attorney into the mix, obviously that starts to put a bit of an adversarial bent on things," Miller said. "But they need to do whatever they think is in the best interest of their constituents."

Most of the 22 nearby families forced to evacuate Eberlein St. have been allowed back into their homes. However, three homes were permanently condemned, leaving those families with nowhere to live.

Authorities say the sinkhole arose due to a sewer pipe collapse about 45 feet under the ground. Over 500,000 residents and their properties could be impacted if the ground shifts from this sinkhole, while a water conservation order remains in effect for much of the county.

Gov. Rick Snyder declared a state of emergency in Fraser in January after visiting the sinkhole and seeing the problem firsthand with Miller and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel.

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