As Monroe Street Sidewalk Negotiations Continue, Marl Downplays Contamination Risk

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Negotiations continue in the effort to build a sidewalk connecting the Huntington Woods subdivisions with downtown in the City of Saline.

The city is trying to make good on the promises of sidewalks made long ago. A key obstacle is that much of the sidewalk would have to be built in Saline Township - along the property of a homeowner who doesn't want it.

"We are not they're not there yet but negotiations continue.  As soon as there's something tangible to share we will disseminate it to Council and have (the issue) on a future meeting agenda," Mayor Brian Marl said at Monday's city council meeting.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Clerk Terri Royal read a comment from someone who did not reveal their identity. The commenter expressed concern with construction in front of the Adient property (formerly Universal/Hoover) known to be contaminated with PFAS and PCBs.

"The current sidewalk plan absolutely includes Adient's heavily contaminated parcel, which goes all the way to the bridge. And the mayor needs to correct his false information about where the sidewalk would lay," the commenter said through the Clerk. "Adient has stated that much remediation and further testing needs to be done in its  (290 S. Monroe St) parcel and in its utility  corridor due to high amounts of PFAS and (volatile organic compounds there."

The anonymous commenter said EGLE and the EPA have been studying the issue to determine how much contamination could spread as a result of sidewalk construction since late 2020. The commenter added that Adient contamination has already spread and limited the size of the Curtiss Park Bluffs subdivision as a result. Finally, the commenter asked if the city would provide written guarantees to all nearby property owners that their property or drinking water wouldn't be impacted.

Mayor Marl took issue with the idea that the sidewalk construction would cause contamination of nearby property.

"The assertion that has been made, that the construction of said sidewalk would cause environmental contaminants to spread to adjacent properties, is a serious claim it deserves to be vetted and evaluated. But I will state for the record: To date, no materials memos or specific evidence have been presented to my office to justify that claim and simply saying it doesn't make it so," Marl said. "So if individuals believe that is likely to occur I would encourage them to reach out to my office and provide evidence and data to justify that claim."

The sidewalk project is supported by the residents of Huntington Woods.

Jeff Weiss has been among the most vocal in speaking of the need for a sidewalk. He spoke at Monday's meeting during public, saying he spoke on behalf of 75 residents of the first and second phases, and 25 more who will be moving in soon.

"I respectfully asked this council to please end the log jam and please get on board with taking over this project from Mr.  Shipman and also picking up the additional costs," Weiss said. "Permits have been issued and the significant funds have been set aside and it is time for us and the city to move forward together on this project."

Weiss said he's heard rumblings the city might levy a special assessment on Huntington Woods residents for the sidewalk. Weiss expressed opposition to the idea, saying Huntington Woods residents have been paying taxes for less service.

"Not only have phase one and, more recently, phase two residents been paying city taxes without being safely connected to the city," Weiss said.

In addition, Weiss said, the homeowners association negotiated an agreement with builder David Shipman that he would turn over funds meant for a sidewalk to the HOA should he not finish the sidewalk he promised. Weiss said the HOA would be willing to share those funds for the purpose of a sidewalk.

In addition, Weiss said, the HOA phase one board approved to cover the liability insurance for the portion of the sidewalk within Saline Township.

Weiss said the homeowners' associations are also discussing a plan to share future maintenance of the sidewalks.

"We've waited long enough. We've endured a long wait, with lots of sweat, years and significant funds. It's time for the city to please do this project with us," Weiss said.

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