You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Sun, Nov 4, 2012 : 1:15 p.m.

Augusta Township facing over $1 million in repairs to water system

By Tom Perkins

A new report presented to the Augusta Township Board of Trustees outlines several issues that could necessitate more than $1 million in repairs to the township's water system.

Taxpayers could end up on the hook for those repairs.

The Board of Trustees received the report at their October 23 meeting. No action was taken. The board’s utility advisory committee must meet again to discuss how to fix the issues. One meeting was already held, but there are questions as to whether it followed the requirements of the Open Meetings Act.


A "poly pig" shot out of a fire hydrant in Augusta Township.

Tom Perkins | For

Among the problems are a decayed “poly pig” that was affecting water pressure; a decaying water main that could cost $1 million to replace; and eight pipes feeding homes off the main water line that weren’t buried far enough underground and are now exposed. Those pipes are likely to freeze and break when winter sets in.

The most serious issue is the water main break on Tuttle Hill Road between Torrey and Liss roads. It is the fourth break in the last 18 months and officials are trying to determine the cause.

The pipe was installed in 1994 and has an expected lifespan of 40 years.

“We’re not sure why that particular section of pipe keeps breaking,” Trustee Mike King said. “We don’t know if the issue is with the pipe itself, with the soil in that particular location or what’s causing degradation to the pipe.”

Township trustees don’t believe there are any chemicals in the soil that would cause the pipe to prematurely degrade. A sample of the pipe was sent to the pipe manufacturer, Griffin Pipe Products, and officials expected the company to do an analysis to see why the pipe is failing.

Instead, a Griffin representative sent back a short letter explaining that there was corrosion, which several board members said was simply stating the obvious.

If there is a faulty pipe, then Griffin should be held responsible, Trustee Bill Tobler said. King agreed, but said he expected Griffin would not take responsibility for the pipe, and that could lead to a costly legal battle.

Wade Trim, a civil engineering company hired to maintain and monitor the township’s water system, found the “poly pig” while performing maintenance on and repairing the township’s fire hydrants. Jason Karmol, a Wade Trim representative, wrote in the report that its workers made a “startling discovery” when opening a hydrant at the corner of Willow and Tuttle Hill roads.


Water mains may have to be replaced along a section of Tuttle Hill Road between Torrey and Liss roads.

Tom Perkins | For

“As we opened the hydrant valve, a large, sponge-like mass was ejected from the water main,” Karmol wrote.

The 18-inch, bullet-shaped polyurethane “pig” is used when water systems are constructed. They are placed in one end of a water line and pushed through the line to scour the pipes free of any dirt lodged inside.

The “pig” had probably been in the line for nearly 20 years, Karmol wrote.

“It became deformed as it passed through the hydrant valve, and that is why it was not easily recognized,” he said. “This obstruction would account for the low flow that we observed from the hydrant.”

Tobler questioned why the township’s previous utility maintenance company, UMS, hadn’t discovered the pig, since it was allegedly performing fire hydrant maintenance. The fire department would have found there was no pressure coming from the hydrant had firefighters tapped into it in an emergency.

In a location nearby, Washtenaw County Drain Commission workers cleaning ditches on Talladay Road between Tuttle Hill and Whittaker roads exposed service leads leading to homes in the area.

The pipes are typically buried at least four feet deep, but appear to have been buried only a matter of inches, Tobler said. That has left eight service pipes in the air, which will also have to be replaced. That project will have to be funded by the township.

“It’s a bad situation,” King said. “Now there’s a little bit of an ongoing discussion and debate as to whose responsibility it is.”

Wade Trim’s contract requires the company to take care of any emergency situations the township faces with its system. But Wade Trim contends this doesn’t qualify as an emergency situation, and so the company isn’t responsible. Wade Trim recommended the township seek bids for the work.

“The township residents would pay for it, unfortunately, “ King said.

A majority of the board has asked Supervisor Pete Hafler to call another special meeting of the utility advisory committee. Hafler already called one, but his opposition on the board has charged it was an illegal meeting because it didn’t follow the requirements of the Open Meetings Act.

Many board members said they weren’t aware of the meeting and no notice was posted.

No time or date for a new meeting was set at the October 23 Board of Trustees meeting.


Samantha Towler

Tue, Nov 6, 2012 : 2:14 a.m.

Tobler, give it a rest. Nuff said????????????

William Tobler, Trustee

Tue, Nov 6, 2012 : 1:51 a.m.

Quite frankly, there was no apology. I am sorry that my statement of opposing a "hillbilly utility system" offended you, but that is your problem, not mine. I am more concerned that the citizens of Augusta Township will probably have to pick up the multi-million dollar tab on the past performance of individuals that you want to give a free pass. I am also concerned that indivduals, such as yourself, feel that you are above the ordinances of the township, which were intended to provide public safety, and much are more lenient than townships such as Ypsilanti Township.

Samantha Towler

Tue, Nov 6, 2012 : 1:31 a.m.

Mr. Tobler, I am not skirting or down playing your statements about the issue you seem passionate about. At all. My item was simply your remark about the hillbilly system. I am sure you could have referenced your point in a much respectful tone. I accept that you did not mean to disrespect anyone and I appreciate your coming forward with that. I am not familiar with the issues or your knowledge of what took place involving this situation. And I made no argument with such. Nor did this writer voice any opposition to your opinions. Yes, you did have poor choice describing the system. However in reading your latest explanation you did your self no favor and perhaps made your apology weak. I hope you understand my poster. Good luck in your retirement and enjoy.

William Tobler, Trustee

Tue, Nov 6, 2012 : 1 a.m.

In this day and age of politically correct language, it never occurred to me that there was a "hillbilly" group that felt denigrated by Jeff Foxworthy and Larry The Cable Guy. The point here, and made vividly clear from the very beginning, is massive dollar costs from a substandard operation.


Tue, Nov 6, 2012 : 12:37 a.m.

Something to keep in mind... Inflammatory comments will distract voters from the issues and make them question the character of the person who spoke them.

Cath Howard

Tue, Nov 6, 2012 : 12:08 a.m.

The situation with the water system in Augusta Township is extremely troubling. I can understand Mr. Tobler's frustration. I like and respect Bill Tobler, but I think that his choice of words was inflammatory. It distracted some people from his concerns that we have not been served well by the former utility company and by some of our current and former Board members. But I think Bill Tobler might just be flaming mad about a situation he's been trying to warn us about for a long time. If you want to take issue with Mr. Tobler's use of the word "hillbilly" that is your right. I don't think it is fair to cast everyone who's ever associated with him as a potential "hillbilly hater" I don't think he hates "hillbillies" - just the possibility of subterfuge and corruption. I am running for Trustee on the team that was associated with Mr. Tobler and I am not ashamed of that. I do believe that it is the team that will try to remedy the poor choices that have resulted in the lack of adequate record keeping regarding the water system and left the Township holding the bag for hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of debt in bad developer deals. As for caring about "hillbillies", it's no secret that I grew up in a rural area of Southern Indiana, my family's roots are southern and my family continues to farm land that was owned by my great-great grandparents. My entire life I have lived where people are called hillbillies and/or rednecks- so don't assume how I judge or think about people unless you have talked to me personally. I do not believe that anyone has seen or heard one member of the current candidates on the Augusta Pride Team say or print one disparaging remark or categorization of any other individual running for office in our Township. However I have certainly read some very scathing remarks and allegations in other candidates' literature and postings that are not only insulting, but might border on libel.

William Tobler, Trustee

Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 11:03 p.m.

First of all, I meant no disrespect to any citizen of Augusta or anywhere else. The phrase "hillbilly system" refers to a system which is the opposite of one professionally constructed and operated. There are many humor sites that use this phrase. The noise created by Towler, Brandon and King (the opposition) who are partners with Hafler, Dew, McDonald and Newsome is meant to distract from the real issues concerning massive amounts of money, easily $20M. and tomorrow's election. They are, or support, the opposition. Shall I share their disrespect for ordinances and statutes? Nah. They'll just whine. Two of the 4 cases mentioned were built about 1975. The residential leads from the mains were only buried 12 to 24 inches, where 48 inches is required. Professional? How do we respond? The other 2 cases involved the system installed in 1995 at $7M cost. In one case, the cast iron water main is rotting away and we can't find out why. In the other case, discovered only last week, the water main is buried only 12 inches! Professional or hillbilly? UMS was the utility vendor for the 12 years ending April 2012. Over those 12 years, there were many, many water taps into the system. How could they not discover the deficiencies and report to the Board? Professional? The poly pig was discovered by Wade Trim during their first round of fire hydrant flushing. It plugged the hydrant and would have prevented its use during a fire event. During the past 12 years, UMS was paid for some 10,000 hydrant flushings, yet I NEVER saw ONE being done. I saw many events of a UMS truck sitting by a hydrant, but never saw any work being done. I received many phone calls from citizens that observed the same thing. By replacing UMS, we interrupted the cash flow. Do you know that Supervisor Hafler, in 2012, never created a budget for the Utility Department that he manages? That our last audit continues to show the bleeding of the Utility Department?

average joe

Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 5:15 p.m.

Bill Tobler- I agree with everything you stated. Very informative. Thank you for serving this township for many years. Based on some comments posted here, You really hit a sensitive spot with some residents..... And to Samantha, Kaffa, & Debbie, maybe Bill was just describing his opinion of what it looks like when so many residents have to transport their water from the fire station to their homes...


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 6:53 p.m.

I thought everyone would soon see the real William Tobler since he was knocked off his pedestal in the primary election. One can bet the 'Team" he supports (Shelby, Giszczak, Burek, Todd, Howard, Keefe and Chie) are cut from the same condescending piece of cloth that he is. Please vote wisely.

Samantha Towler

Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 5:52 p.m.

Sensitive. YES I AM. To you, I am proud to be one hard working water carrier then. The few conversations with Mr. Tobler, he is a very educated person and has been nice to me, however, just don't like his remark. I think everyone has done this before, due to power outages, perfect storms, dry seasons, dried up wells and bad government. Bucket full ya'll.


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 4:53 p.m.

I think it is sad to see an elected official speak so poorly of a culture that he was elected by. I'm sure there are more appropriate ways to describe your frustration about something then to sink into name calling. You are offending people that live in your township. Just because someone is hillbilly doesn't mean that they are bad people. You have lowered the point you were trying to make by name calling and now instead of seeing you point everyone just sees how you handle issues. I hope you are proud of yourself Mr. Tobler you showed me why I should vote for anyone besides you.

Mike King

Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 7:44 p.m.

Actually Bill Tobler was running for Township Supervisor but didnt receive enough votes in the August Primary to remain on the ballot! (He was defeated)

average joe

Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 5:07 p.m.

FYI- Bill Tobler isn't running for any elected office.

Samantha Towler

Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 4:25 p.m.

Mr. Tobler, Were the Hillbilly's shooting at you? Is this what this means? Trying so hard to understand. I hope that every Hillbilly does not vote for your team. Unless they come forward and tell us this is NOT what they are saying or thinking. Your name, your words refects them as part of your team. Shelby is this what you think? How about the current clerk, Kathy, is this what you think? Watch for the Hillbilly signs on election day.


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 4:22 p.m.

William Tobler, Hmmm... Don't you feel a little awkward that the township that your serving on which is small and rural, and filled with working class families, that your throwing out terms like hillbilly? It's a little embarrassing that as a trustee you couldn't find the proper verbiage to correctly follow through your thoughts, without offending those to whom have placed you in office. Going forward, may i suggest:

Samantha Towler

Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 3:55 p.m.

Mr. Tobler, Hillbilly....., what's up with this racial remark? Many of us are, Hillbilly's and proud of it. You have every right to your statements but to show disrespect as such, is uncalled for and completely disrespectful. We are people with a southern heritage that work, pay taxes and have even voted for you and your's. What did you mean by this statement? Since you have been so vocal, I hope you take the time to either apologize or give us Hillbilly's an explanation. We are offended by your remarks. Tell us Mr. Tobler, what are your talking about? Many are waiting!!!!!

William Tobler, Trustee

Sun, Nov 4, 2012 : 11:25 p.m.

As far as records ....? Hah. The Supervisor removed all of the records from the township hall in April of this year. The previous utility service company (UMS) which is highly touted by Hafler, King, Thornton and Dew, did not keep any records. A year or so ago, I had to FOIA the sewage pump inspection reports for a year. We paid for weekly inspections of each pump station which were to be kept in the Utility Department of the township. After about 6 weeks of dodging by the Supervisor, I was suddenly presented with around 1800 pump inspection reports. After reviewing each and every report, these looked like a cookie cutter of 4 templates that were just copied and pasted for the 11 pump station reports each week. Even though we paid for typically 15 emergency calls per month for a pump station malfunction, NOT ONE was documented in these reports. This kind of reality caused me to push for a new utility maintenance company, and I wrote the Request for Proposal. Wade Trim was the ultimate contract winner, over the extreme objections by Hafler, Thornton and King. Hafler arranged for a firestorm of a Board meeting in January 2012 by sending out an anonymous communication to citizens deliberately filled with misinformation. During this meeting, citizens were screaming at us, and one even ran up to the Board table in an uncontrolled rage to get in my face just one foot away. This was followed up by a drive by shooting at my residence, and with a fire-bombing threat on Dew's Facebook website. These reasons are why I am opposed to a Hillbilly Utility System which has been the norm in Augusta Township for a long time.

Mike King

Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 7:29 p.m.

This is not the first "Poly Pig" that has been found in our water system. These objects have been in the water pipes since the pipes were installed in the ground years ago. Two to three years ago our utility company UMS found and removed one that had become lodged in a hydrant lead. UMS is one of many private companies that have been chosen to service our utility system over the years. It is incorrect for Mr. Tobler to imply that Utility Management Services should have discovered this recent "Poly Pig" as it has been floating around and could have continued to be floating within our water system for years to come.

William Tobler, Trustee

Sun, Nov 4, 2012 : 11:22 p.m.

First of all, Supervisor Hafler held the Utility meeting deliberately without notifying anyone including Board members, so they could not attend. Second, he held it at 8am which is before the Township Hall opens for business, and third, he held it in Sumpter Township. I consider this deliberate deception. Not surprisingly, the outcome of this meeting did not help the Board very much, which wanted this advisory committee to thoughtfully review the situation and bring back information to the Board. It didn't happen. We now have at least 4 disasters happening simultaneously with the Utilities, which for a very long time has been the fiefdom of the Supervisor (Hafler, Jackson, Dietering 1) The pipe on Tuttle Hill Rd which is only 17 years old is failing apparently due to corrosion. Why? The Board's attempts to get an answer has been thwarted by Hafler. Yes. The photo that we were provided on day one looked like corrosion. To be told 6 weeks later that it failed from corrosion from an unknown cause was not very helpful. The area is just a farm field with sandy soils. 2) On Talladay Road, a roadside drain cleaning project has uncovered water lines leading from the main to private homes. The drain cleaning only removed maybe a foot of sediment but yet these water lines were exposed. They are supposed to be at 48" or so. 3) On Bunton Road, the proposed drain project has been cancelled for the same reasons. The household pipes are buried between 1'8" and 2'4", instead of the required 48". 4) This past week, it was revealed that the water MAIN on Judd Road has only about 12 inches of cover.

Mike King

Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 7:42 p.m.

Items 2, 3, and 4 are essentially the same issue, all of which are the result of the installation or more appropriate the improper installation of the water system that occurred in 1996 and earlier to my understanding. I know that if you were our township Supervisor, you would not want to take credit or blame for the pipes installed in 1996. I also know that these issues will have to be addressed and plans made to correct the situation regardless of who is elected to office tomorrow.


Sun, Nov 4, 2012 : 7:54 p.m.

Identify the contractor who did the word. Contact the contractor who did the work. Tell them to repair the faulty installation. If the company is no longer in business, take the owner to court and reclaim damages. Publish their names and home addresses. Get an interview. Ask them if they paid off township inspectors to approve the work and ask how much was delivered and to whom. Then identify the inspector(s) who approved the work. Take away their pensions, vacation time, salary, benefits and perks until it is fixed. Then fire them and publish their names, addresses and phone numbers. Then some weekend jail time. Time for accountability, folks. And punishment.


Sun, Nov 4, 2012 : 10:08 p.m.