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Lake residents puzzled by lawsuit against drain district

The plaintiffs and their supporters from Crooked Lake attended the court proceedings Wednesday morning. Luke Froncheck Staff Writer
Carp are spawning where yards used to be. Streets have become rivers. M-43 at Cloverdale remains closed to traffic.

Pumps are running nonstop. Thousands of sandbags haven't stopped flood waters. And the steady onslaught of rain continues. Lawsuit or no, Crooked Lake residents agree that the rising water presents a dilemma of major proportions.Some place the blame on Drain Commissioner Jim Dull, some place it on God, and some find themselves somewhere in the middle.

The flooding crisis that has overtaken this community reached a new level this week: the Barry County Circuit Court. Ten residents took their plight to the legal system in search of a solution.

"I am very confident that the decision to file this lawsuit was not entered into without considerable thought by the folks who have — or are about to — lose their homes,” Crooked Lake resident John Hoek said.

Hoek, who is not personally involved in the lawsuit, has been a regular attendee of the Crooked Lake Task Force meetings.

“They are dealing with contaminated wells, filling, and placing thousands of sandbags, paying thousands of dollars to operate multiple pumps, traversing flooded roads and being denied mail delivery and garbage removal services.

“There is an urgent need for a resolution.”

The lawsuit, which was brought against Dull and the Watson Drain District, left some residents perplexed as to why the suit was brought against the district as a whole and not just the drain commissioner.

“I don’t understand the lawsuit,” Barry Township Trustee Teresa Schuiteboer said earlier this week. “There is the drain commissioner, who is bonded and has insurance, but they added the Watson Drain (to the lawsuit). So now, if the judge goes in favor of the plaintiff, we all have to pay for the purchase of their homes.”

“At this point, I hope the judge denies the sales,” she said. “Then they should come back, but only against the Drain Commission.”

If the judge had approved the lawsuit, it would have set up “a windfall of people wanting to sue to make them buy their homes.” Schuiteboer said.

Barry Township resident Larry Osborne doesn’t live on Crooked Lake, but he's a member of the Watson Drain District.

“While I understand the frustration of those involved with the lawsuit, I don’t like the fact that the lawsuit includes the Watson Drain District,” Osborne said. “That means that, not only will those landowners pay the bill of resolving the flooding issue, but, if the lawsuit is successful, they will also pay for the condemnation of the homes.

“I also don’t understand the 125 percent of fair value asking price. That amount is supposed to only be for property taken via eminent domain for public use.”

Crooked Lake resident Kenny Tomlin said the money from the Watson Drain district should go toward a potential solution.

“This is ridiculous,” Tomlin said of the lawsuit. “The money should be going to repairs. Everyone on the lake is affected. I have water in my basement and that's never happened before.”

“The flooding was caused by God,” resident Charles Krammin said. “The lawsuit should be dismissed.”

The lawsuit filed by the 10 Crooked Lake residents was dismissed Wednesday morning

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