Modernizing Our Infrastructure

Great cities take great neighborhoods.

We in Farmington have always prided ourselves on our great neighborhoods. So when we talk of progress, we owe it to ourselves to make sure that all our residents — in neighborhoods across the city — are prioritized in that vision, with investments like roads, trees, water mains, sidewalks, and broadband.

WATER/SEWER WORK

When I saw a video of someone paddling down Mayfield Street in a kayak, I grabbed an umbrella and walked through the flood to see how deep it was. The water came up to my thighs — and that was on the sidewalk. I posted the photos on social media, and everyone was horrified. Then we looked at the numbers for funding the repairs. And while Mayfield Street was a highly visible breakdown, it far from the only infrastructure work that Farmington needed.

Council decided to put it to the voters in the form of a 10-year millage, half of which would be dedicated to capital improvements. It was approved overwhelmingly, and we got feedback like “The streetscape is great, but make sure we fund the infrastructure we don’t see, too.”

We took their words to heart. As soon as the millage passed, I worked to get funding for repairing the Mayfield drainage system in the 2019-2020 City budget. The project was completed in late 2020. At the same time, we did major repairs to the Bel-Aire sewer system, now complete.

I then joined fellow councilmembers in requesting a plan to tackle the rest of Farmington’s aging below-ground infrastructure. It’s a massive undertaking. To be as efficient as possible, I supported a policy to combine water/sewer/road repair whenever possible.

DEALING WITH CLIMATE CHANGE

One thing I’ve heard a lot about while knocking doors this summer is the storms and the damage they have caused to our property. One afternoon in August, Farmington got 1.5 inches of rain in half an hour. Streets and basements flooded all over the city — because our aging water infrastructure is simply not able to cope with these torrential downpours. We’ve seen similar (and worse) cases across southeastern lower Michigan.

This is not acceptable. When I’m re-elected, my No. 1 priority will be getting a plan in place — and in action — to tackle the effects of climate change here in Farmington. The sooner we get a plan in place, the better off we will be, so our infrastructure can stand up to these storms that are knocking out power and flooding our streets repeatedly.

I’d like to bring in the experts and have them tell us what our options are — and at what price. I fully realize we don’t have the budget to tear up every road that needs to be redone for water/sewer repair work. It cost us $1.5 million to fix Mayfield, the street that used to flood on the regular, and while it’s much improved, it still floods when the rain is really heavy.

So, I propose a stormwater management plan that includes a combination of updating our “gray” infrastructure (pipes underground) as well as introducing less invasive “green” infrastructure that uses natural methods to help prevent flooding (like drainage channels, pervious pavement, and retention ponds). We could even do incentives for residents who wanted to tear out their lawn and do sustainable landscaping, like native plants and rain gardens.

This is all possible, and other cities in the area are already paving the way. Detroit has begun experimenting with bioswales, where stormwater runoff can collect, in residential neighborhoods. Closer to home, Northville just installed its first street made of pervious pavement so that water would drain better.

Farmington’s DPW crews are working valiantly every time it storms, but the truth is, all of us are fighting a losing battle here because our systems are outdated. We need leaders who are ready to invest in new solutions for a new climate era, and the sooner, the better.

TREES

Trees are city infrastructure as much as sidewalks, roads, and water/sewer. They make our neighborhoods desirable — and, like other forms of infrastructure, they need to be maintained. Like our aging water/sewer system, we can’t replace all the trees at once. But once we know what needs replacing, we can plan for it and put money aside to do the work. I got a tree study moved to the top of our official Council Goals to ID failing trees, tell us what trees we should plant where, help the City with a maintenance plan, and make Farmington more eligible for tree grants in the future.

STREETS AND SIDEWALKS

Farmington people love to walk in the community. As your representative, I’ve worked to move the focus of our streets from cars to pedestrians. I have championed the Farmington Road streetscape, which will slow traffic, make downtown more walkable, and help small businesses. I also got the new Pathways Committee underway and currently serve as a member. It’s a group of walkers and bikers from all across the neighborhoods who give input on how to make our streets more pedestrian-friendly. Our mission is to identify places where walking/biking routes are lacking, then recommend those projects to Council and apply for grant funding.

BROADBAND

In a recent study of Farmington and Farmington Hills residents, 46% of respondents — almost half — said they were dissatisfied with their internet service. With work-from-home, remote shopping, remote education, and more internet-connected devices than ever before, the pandemic has shown that fast, reliable internet has become a necessity. People are using more internet than ever, and this need is not going away.

Fiber cable offers internet speeds that are up to 60 times faster than copper connections, but it’s extremely expensive to establish a network. I supported the creation of the Farmington/FH joint task force on broadband, which led to a feasibility study that then attracted the interest of private investors.

In May 2021, I joined colleagues from Farmington and Farmington Hills City Councils in approving a permit application from SiFi Networks to construct a community-wide fiber-optic broadband network. The project will cost $150 million, and since it’s being funded by investors and installed by a private company, there’s no cost to Farmington taxpayers. Once it’s set up, internet providers will be able to rent the network for use. It’s expected that the network will allow more service providers to operate in the cities and create faster, more reliable, and more price-competitive internet service.

Other cities, like Novi, are now recognizing this need as well and following our lead.

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