The village of Fairgrove had plans for McLuney Street.

Those plans had support from the Michigan Department of Transportation, until they didn’t.

MDOT awarded the village Category B funding to repair and upgrade McLuney Street. 

Category B funding is open to cities or villages with a population of 10,000 or less. The grants, of up to $250,000 with a 50 percent minimum cash match, can be used for any road construction work other than regular maintenance. The project street or road must be ineligible for federal-aid or Transportation Economic Development Fund (TEDF) Category D funding. Villages and cities are encouraged to combine the projects with other infrastructure work or with work being done by other infrastructure work.

But the state hasn’t approved the village’s contract for the work. Instead, MDOT keeps sending the contract back, clerk Cristi Smith told the village council at Monday’s meeting. 

“The state kept looking at what we were bidding and what we were getting,” Smith said, “and they didn’t like it.” 

After a third rejection, Smith contacted the Saginaw-based engineering firm Spicer Group to find out why the state didn’t like the village’s plans. The answer, they said, is the original engineering by Townley Engineering of Freeland and Sandusky was wrong. The storm sewer at the end of Liberty Street didn’t connect to McLuney Street. The road and the sidewalk connections were not Americans with Disabilities Act compliant. If those things weren’t changed, Smith said, they’d have to tear up the street in 2025 and make it ADA compliant. 

The curbs had to be leveled, she said, and all of the sidewalks must lead to another sidewalk, which they don’t currently. “You can’t lead disabled persons to the middle of the street and have nowhere for them to go,” Smith said.

Spicer had to re-engineer the project, which changed the total bill to $118,000. The state increased its share of the project from $46,500 to $61,900. 

Now the village has to find a way to match that amount. Smith said Fairgrove could apply some of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act money to the budget, which could make up the difference. The village also expects to get a portion of the $145,639 in American Rescue Plan funds target for Fairgrove Township. Those funds can be used on infrastructure, which includes roads.

“I am so disappointed in this budget,” Smith said. “But, to do it right, we are talking about $61,000 out of the village’s budget when we set aside $46,500.”

The cost includes about $12,000 in contingencies, Smith said. “That allows for mishaps, so if they don’t spend the $12,000, we’ll be getting that back.”

Council member Jackie Sebert asked why fixing the engineering mistake is the village’s responsibility.

“It would seem that these guys would know that all of these were requirements,” she said.

Smith said she was the last person to sign off on the documents and said she’s not familiar with road work and projects.

 “I had no idea what was happening,” she said. ”I took the liberty of thinking an engineer is an engineer is an engineer. And we thought that engineer had the village of Fairgrove’s best interests in mind. I thought he worked for the village. I was misled.”

Sebert said maybe the village needs to look over the agreement it signed with Townley to see what its options are. 

“I think this ADA thing, they should know that,” she said. “That is going to cost us money to fix that. Then, maybe legality wise, that is something we can hold them accountable for.”

Smith said the village may need to have a second engineering firm look at what happened and why.

“I would like a set of professional eyes, if you don’t mind, to help me with that,” she said.

“I just feel like they should have known some of these things,” Sebert said. “They should have done it the right way. Some of the responsibility for this additional cost should be on them.”

The council did hire Spicer to oversee the McLuney Street project from now on and instructed Smith to see if there are any steps the village can take against Townley Engineering for the original engineering plans.

Smith also may contact the Tuscola County Road Commission or the engineering firm Fleis and Vandenbrink of Midland and Grand Blanc to have them review the process in an effort to find out where the plans went wrong.