By RJ Walters / For the Jackson Citizen Patriot
The city of Albion is splitting a $550,000 bill with SEMCO Energy Gas Co. and the Michigan Department of Transportation to pay for cost overruns associated with soil and water contamination that increased the costs of a 2006 bridge project.
Council approved the settlement with a 5-1 vote Monday, with Mayor Joe Domingo voting against it and Garrett Brown abstaining.
Negotiations have been ongoing for more than three-and-a-half years and MDOT originally told the city it had to pay the $550,000 bill after finding contamination caused by a coal plant that was run in the 1930s and ’40s on the SEMCO site, located behind the Albion Fire Department on Eaton Street.
City Manager Mike Herman said Albion will cover its share of the costs by using $94,000 from the city’s solid waste fund, $48,000 from its street improvement fund and $45,000 from a surplus in its bridge construction fund.
Domingo said the city should have been more proactive in fighting the case because it could have taken the matter to court for the “$70,000 to $80,000” it spent on attorney costs in settling the matter. He was concerned with how councilmembers handled the settlement.
“I told them (when I was first elected) that I didn’t want any exclusions from the contract — that they needed to tell the citizens what happened over there,” Domingo said. “Well, they still put it in the contract, because once again this falls under the Albion Building Authority (ABA) because they own the fire department and the property and now they’re going to own (the SEMCO) property and everybody thinks it’s just going to fly on by.”
Herman said it was a tough decision for council to make and councilmembers diligently weighed alternative options.
“If we did not reach a settlement we would be going to court spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on attorneys trying to recoup $550,000,” he said. “They could have taken that path and we would’ve spent maybe a million dollars — they chose to settle because they felt that was the best option.”
As part of the settlement, SEMCO agreed to donate the land to the ABA and provide an estimated $50,000 for a $180,000 driveway project for the fire department.