City Manager Pat McGinnis said the declaration would make the city eligible for federal funding, which would help the city manage long-term repairs that are expected to be costly. The emergency designation requires approval from the county, state and federal governments in ascending order, McGinnis explained.
Earlier in the week, city crews began installing large sandbags to quarantine the roadway near Hall’s Sports Center, where the Grand River has overtaken the business’ parking lot and the road. Relieving the closed roadway of water will allow crews to patch a car-size pothole.
West of U.S. 31, crews over the past months have attempted to pump water from the corner of Coho Drive and Harbor Island Drive to repair potholes. The Harbor Island boat launch is entirely submerged and only passable for large trucks.
On Monday, the City Council approved $24,642 for the sandbags to dike the river on the east side of Harbor Island. Other projects will likely require the city to dip into its fund balance, McGinnis said.
“It’s going to take hundreds of thousands of dollars before we’re done,” the city manager said. “We don’t have any choice. Deep reserves are going to come up short.”
The city received about $20,000 for beach cleanup work following a severe storm last July 4 weekend, McGinnis said. The 1998 windstorm led to an emergency declaration, he added.
City Public Works Director Derek Gajdos said maintaining the sandbagged area will remain a challenge.
“Groundwater is literally coming up through the cracks,” he said. “It’s not going away.”
Councilman Josh Brugger voted against the emergency funding, while Mayor Pro-Tem Mike Fritz called it an emergency and the sandbags a “cheap investment for us.”
Mayor Geri McCaleb echoed the needed urgency for a long-term solution.
“The longer they’re underwater, the worse the damage is going to be,” she said of the roads. “The saturation of everything under that asphalt is going to be taking a toll.”
McGinnis said he intends to meet with Ottawa County Emergency Management officials today to begin the process for an emergency declaration. The decision will also need mayoral approval, he said.