Thursday, August 5, 2021

County Commissioner urges municipal service contracts

Wayne County Commissioner Al Haidous told Sumpter Township officials that after exhausting other resources, he was hoping to schedule a meeting with Wayne County Executive Warren Evans regarding services in the area.

Haidous attended the most recent meeting of the Sumpter Township Board of Trustees in response to numerous complaints regarding unkempt drainage ditches and high weeds and brush in the area. Residents had complained to members of the board about the serious safety threat high weeds caused as visibility was blocked at several intersections.  Fire department officials had also expressed concern about fire hydrants being blocked by high weeds.

Earlier this month, members of the board authorized cutting of the weeds and brush by township department of public works employees in response to the complaints, but were adamant that this was the responsibility of the county.

Haidous, who represents the largest county commission district, agreed and said he felt it was a serious problem and that the county “needs to do a lot of things they are not doing.”

He said that the lack of service in the township, particularly with high weeds presenting a traffic hazard and impeding visibility, had been ongoing for several years and that in response he and members of a county committee had reviewed service plans across the country. He said that the best and most efficient plan they found was in Texas where the county contracted the weed cutting and some general forestry maintenance services to the local municipality. The local municipal employees performed the work and the country then reimbursed the community for the service at a rate specified in a formal contract.

Haidous said he had been pushing for such an arrangement since 2019 with little or no success or response from county administration.  He told the officials and audience members at the July 27 meeting that his repeated suggestions had been met with resistance at some county levels. He said that for the first time, due primarily to the lack of staffing, the county forestry department had recently agreed to use an outside contractor for some work.

Trustee Tim Rush said the problem is not only the high weeds but several situations where dead tree branches, eaten by carpenter ants or other insects, hang over the roads in the township.

“I call them the widow makers. They would wipe out a car in rain storm. It is only a matter of time,” he said, “before there is a loss of life.”

 Haidous repeatedly emphasized that he felt the solution to the hazard presented by the high weeds was a contract between the municipality and the county and that he intended “to keep the pressure on.”

Haidous admitted that the county officials “have not been too responsive” to his continued complaints, requests for service and suggestion for municipal contracts. “They even told me there would be somebody here tonight,” he told the board trustees.

“Maybe your guy got lost in the weeds on the way here,” suggested Trustee Matt Oddy.

Haidous said that he will continue to be the “squeaky wheel” regarding the issue and promote the municipal contract idea. “I need to go to the top,” he said.