Fraser — After being closed for nearly a year because of a massive sinkhole that opened up Christmas Eve, 15 Mile near Hayes reopened to the public Tuesday.
“People said it would be at least a three-year project and would cost north of $100 million to get it done,” Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller said during a celebration of the reopening, which included County Executive Mark Hackel and others. “But we got it done a little under budget and in less than a year.”
She added, “It doesn’t get any better than that. I would just say Merry Christmas, everyone. It’s the best Christmas present we could have.”
Miller said the project was budgeted for $75 million.
“I don’t want to get into specifics about the exact cost, but it will be under budget,” she said. “We received $5 million from the state and I would like to thank the governor’s office for stepping up.”
To celebrate the reopening, Miller drove a car down 15 Mile and through a red ribbon held by Hackel on one side and Bob Cannon, supervisor of Clinton Township, on the other side.
Sue Itoh has lived near the sinkhole site, off 15 Mile, for 17 years. She said she’s relieved the road is finally open.
“It was an inconvenience because we had to drive a couple of miles out of the way to get where we were going,” she said. “But now I’m so happy for everyone. We didn’t know if our basements would back up. And we still don’t know if we’ll be able to sell our houses because who would want to live here?”
She added, “But it will be easier now because we won’t have to drive all around to get someplace, and it’s more peaceful.”
A 100-foot-wide, 250-foot-long sinkhole opened Dec. 24, 2016, when the sewer interceptor drain that runs under 15 Mile collapsed. The Macomb Interceptor Drain transports sewage from 11 communities and some 40,000 businesses into a network that leads to a wastewater treatment plant in Detroit operated by the Great Lakes Water Authority.
The collapse forced the evacuation of 22 homes, and three of those houses had to be condemned. Two of the houses were demolished.
“Nothing is wrong with the house that we didn’t bulldoze, and in fact, if you know anybody who wants to move to Macomb County, it will be available,” Miller told the crowd. “We will sell all of it and will put the money back into the drainage district.”
She added, “We didn’t want to get into litigation, so we made all (three affected homeowners) whole.”
Money for the project came from a $70 million bond sale and a $5 million grant from the state. It will cost residents of the communities served by the sewer interceptor an extra $25 a year for the next 25 years, Miller said at the press conference.
Hackel said his job Tuesday was to thank Miller.
“It’s no coincidence that she’s wearing red today because this is Santa Claus,” he said. “I am so excited about her leadership because she is the person that gets it done.”
But litigation is proceeding regarding the sinkhole.
Sterling Heights officials accused Macomb County last month of ignoring “dire” warnings and failing to properly inspect and maintain the pipeline that collapsed.
Miller said during Tuesday’s press conference that a hearing will be held Dec. 11 regarding the litigation.
“It is unfortunate that the leadership of Sterling Heights wants to force someone else to pay their bills, but we will let the courts decide,” she said.