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BCE Calhoun County Water Resources Commissioner

The Water Resources Commissioner is a statutory officer elected on a partisan basis every four years. He is responsible for the administration of the Drain Code of 1956, amended. The duties of the Water Resources Commissioner include: the construction and maintenance of drains, receiving bids and awarding contracts for drain construction. The Water Resources Commissioner also approves drainage in new developments, Subdivisions and maintains lake levels.

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  • Candidate picture

    Fred Heaton
    (Rep)

  • Candidate picture

    Christine Kosmowski
    (Dem)

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Biographical Information

What makes you more qualified than other candidates for this office?

What are three top issues facing this office that you want to address if elected?

Do you believe the best solution was implemented for the Big Marsh Drain project?

How would you make the office of Water Resource Commissioner more accessible?

Is the water resource commissioner an environmental position? State your position in the first sentence, then explain your response.

How would you weigh the need for assessments and keep assessments as low as possible?

Do you believe the office is run as efficiently as possible and if not, what would you do to improve? State your position in the first sentence, then explain your response.

Professional Experience Owner/Operator of Heaton Excavating for 34 years
Political Experience None.
Family Married to Janis Heaton; adult children Sara Kolenda and Michael Heaton.
I have 34 years in the specialized field of Drainage Engineering. I have worked with all previous Water Resources Commissioners in Calhoun County and for 5 area counties as a Contractor and Advisor. I have attended Ohio State University for Drainage Engineering. I am an Excavating contractor, owning and managing my own business, people and equipment. I can evaluate a drain and the problems involved and do a cost estimate without an Engineer to help.

a. I will stop the excessive use of outside engineering and attorney fees. The current WRC has spent over $1.4 million on engineering and over $300,000.00 on attorneys in less than 3 ½ years. These excessive Assessments are crippling our Townships and Tax-payers.

b. I will have better response time on work that is needed to be done.

c. I will not negatively impact our water resources.
I have no experience on this matter and was denied access by the current WRC to information regarding this project. All other information that I read was hear-say and not fact and I will not make my decisions based on that.

5. I would implement longer ‘open’ hours for the WRC Office. And possibly implement a ‘Hot Line Number’ for people in an emergency situation.

Yes and no. The office is about drainage and was implemented for the purpose of proper drainage of farm fields and rural property, but it is also, in these times, about our water resources. I don't need degrees and a vast education in water quality, because the WRC is close partners with the Dept. of Environmental Quality. The WRC has to get permits from the DEQ for its projects and they oversee all work done to make sure that there has been no negative impact to our water resources. Our water is life and is very important. We won't get a second chance if we destroy our water resources.

Assessments need to be made to maintain our Drainage System in Calhoun County, but the overuse of Engineers and Attorneys will break the backs of Townships and Property Owners. We have 2 Townships who already have to request no more assessments be made until they can catch up. One is for 2 years another for 5 years. This means that they cannot do any other essential work in their Township until this debt is paid and that is no good for anyone.

No. 1.4 million dollars’ worth of tax-payer money spent on Engineering and $300,000.00 in Attorney's fees is a waste of our money. No other WRC/Drain Commissioners has spent this extreme amount of money like this in our area! I have the training and experience to make decisions concerning maintenance without hiring Engineers and Attorneys. On new projects, I may have to have an Engineer, but I would have this work bid on, just like the excavation work.

Home address 2112 Division Drive
Professional Experience 2013 – Present, Calhoun County, Marshall, Michigan. Water Resources Commissioner, elected position. Oversee the administration of the Drain Code, lake level controls, and storm water management regulatory programs for Calhoun County. 2000 – 2012, City of Battle Creek, Environmental Services Division, Battle Creek, Michigan. Environmental Programs Coordinator. Develop and implement environmental regulatory programs within the City of Battle. 1998 - 2001, Kalamazoo Valley Community College, Kalamazoo, Michigan. Part-Time Instructor of Physical Geography. Develop and present course presentations, lectures, and examinations. 1980 - 2000, City of Battle Creek, Wastewater Division, Battle Creek, Michigan. Chemist. Responsible for the day-to-day management of the wastewater treatment plant laboratory.
Political Experience I was elected as Water Resources Commissioner for Calhoun County in 2012
Family Husband, Wayne Kukuk, and daughters, Emma and Mina Kukuk.
My extensive background in the water environment field with over 35 years of professional experience and a BS and MS degree in that area of study make me uniquely qualified for being the Water Resources Commissioner. I understand how water flows both on and below the surface of the earth. Project development, implementation, management, and budgeting are experiences I have honed on the job. I have brought innovative ideas and problem solving skills to all of the positions I have held, which have led to award winning projects and national recognition for stormwater and drinking water protection programs and helped to restore the fiscal health of Calhoun County.
I faced a dire issue coming into office, which was a deficit in the county drainage fund due to irresponsible fiscal mismanagement in the past. I made tough decisions to eliminate it and balance the budget. Had I not acted to correct it, the County may have lost state shared revenue funding, had its credit rating lowered, and limited the County’s ability to borrow money potentially affecting all County residents. In my next term, I will persist in bringing the office into the 21st Century with updated technologies and a sustained focus on sound water resource management and protection. Projects will continue to be designed properly, done legally, and function efficiently long into the future
An agreement between Battle Creek, the County, Emmett Township, and the Big Marsh Intercounty Board (ICB) to address flooding along Minges Brook was the best solution to resolve the issue. A lawsuit interrupted the ICB statutorily-required process. During the period of litigation, the City decided to correct the flooding independently. The court ultimately sided with the ICB. The three entities then approached them about an agreement since the City was far along in their planning. The ICB agreed at a public hearing and voted a drainage project unnecessary by them. The City completed its work and fulfilled its commitment. The County and Township are required to complete their work by 2018.
My staff and I strive for timely responses to inquiries received in the office, typically within 24-hours of contact. I want to continue modernizing the office and to make the use of office and web-based resources more accessible, including property and drain search information. I encourage property owner meetings, especially when petitions are requested. The policy in my office is to meet with residents before petitions are prepared so that they understand the process, the size of the drainage district, and the potential costs. This policy was put into place in 2014.
The WRC position is environmental in several ways. The office conducts earth-change projects that can affect water quality from common pollutants such as sediment and nutrients. Best management practices (BMPs) can be used to reduce them, and other pollutants, in both rural and urban areas. I am developing a Storm Water Management Plan for the county through a $550,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) that will include BMPs. The WRC oversees a regulatory program for the county for storm water runoff because it is one of the largest sources of water pollution nationwide. The WRC can also be a resource about water quality issues facing the county.
The only way to pay for drain work is by assessing the drainage district. If a drain has not been maintained over time, costs increase by requiring petitions to correct them. Petition projects have larger-scale work and expenses and require professional services. I had a sizable number of such projects awaiting me when I came into office because of previous short-term, cobbled together approaches. Or, the wrong fix was used because of a reluctance to consult with experts on how drainage and fluvial processes work. To address this, I am developing a comprehensive maintenance program to prioritize work to help reduce the need for costly projects over time.
Efficiencies can always be improved in any office and we are updating information and procedures. The MDEQ grant I obtained has assisted with the scanning of historical drain records as the office evolves into a paperless recordkeeping system. The grant assisted with the cost of adjusting drainage district boundaries so that they accurately reflect the watershed of a drain. That work was possible because of improvements to the County’s topographical information from remote sensing, known as LIDAR, on its Geographical Information System (GIS) also through the grant. Adjusting district boundaries should continue for remaining drains because it is fairer for district residents.

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