Douglas Officials Seek Court Order In Ongoing Battle With RJ Peterson Over Spoils Site
Douglas city officials will be asking Allegan County Circuit Judge Margaret Bakker to modify the 2015 legal settlement between the city and Tower Marine owner RJ Peterson if Peterson continues, they claim, to violate the agreement because it failed to finish the work on time.
“Let’s face it, Mr. Peterson is currently in violation of the court order,” Douglas City Manager Bill LeFevere told The Local Observer on Tuesday.
Douglas officials are seeking a legally binding court order where the city would get reimbursed for any work it performs in case Tower Marine fails to complete the dredge spoil site project - dubbed by many locals as the “Peterson Volcano” - by in what would be a newly established timetable.
“How will that (further legal action) help the community?” asked Peterson in response to the city’s new move.
“It is more and more a waste of taxpayer dollars. This is killing the future of the harbor. We are not only dredging (silt from the Kalamazoo Harbor) for Tower Marine, we do it for many people along the waterfront,” Peterson told the Local Observer in response to the city’s new legal move.
The 2015 court order required Peterson to significantly reduce the spoils pile and landscape it in a way that conforms to local land-use regulation as well as state of Michigan environmental standards.
It required earth fill to be moved along Blue Star Highway, adjacent to the marina property; proper drainage work to be installed; and all dredge spoils material be capped so as to address all environmental issues.
Both parties—Peterson and the city—blame each other for the delay.
LeFevere has repeatedly characterized Peterson as continually acting in bad faith, while Peterson says the city manager is an “ego-driven, self-serving idiot” who manages by fear and is allowed to do so by a weak and compliant city council.
“Maybe one day the city council members will wake up and actually do their jobs and realize they are in charge and should make the decisions, not LeFevere!” stormed Peterson. “His (LeFevere’s) actions when it comes to this harbor is killing our city…and Saugatuck is being hurt as well.”
The deadline for completion of th spoils pile work was November 1, 2016. And as of November 4, the Tower Marine contractor, Ross Veltema of Top Grade— hired to perform the earth moving and storm water project— estimated progress to be approximately 50 to 60 percent complete.
“The previously dredged spoils that we are working to move, essentially consists of very fine silt material that (when wet) is extremely difficult to work with,” stated Veltema in his November 4 letter to Douglas City Engineer Brian Vilmont of Prien & Newhof.
“Despite our best efforts to manage this site, our equipment continually sinks down into the sediment, making this job take much longer than it should,” noted Veltema.
He asked the city for an extension to finish the work. “It would be completely finished by the end of February 2017,” wrote Veltema.
“We are certainly willing to consider an extension of the deadline,” said LeFevere. At the same time, however, city officials say they have big doubts the work could be completed by the end of February as stated by Veltema.
Peterson himself said he believes it would take up until June 2017 for the work to be completed. “There is just a lot of water in the sediment that needs to be dewatered. It cannot possibly be done by that deadline (of February).”
In either case, Douglas officials say they will not approve an extension without a legally binding order signed by Judge Bakker.
“We want some assurance that if the City of Douglas has to perform the work in case Tower Marine fails to do so, there should be a bond or a letter of credit as part of any modified agreement,” said LeFevere.