Are infrastructure projects in Grand Rapids running ahead of our needs and our ability to pay?

Let’s take another look at this article, posted some time ago, but still relevant.


In reading “Golf Course Road traffic study findings revealed to the City” (Herald Review 11/11/09) I noticed the unfamiliar name Tom Schweide listed as the traffic engineer for the study.  Who is Schweide? A new city engineer, an understudy of our own city engineer Tom Pagel?  Perhaps he works for the city planner Rob Mattei or is another member of his staff.   Perhaps if I Google on Tom Sohweide I will find what the Herald missed.  Ah yes, there it is, it appears he is an employee of SEH.

How can SEH not have a conflict here?  They author a study, recommend the project and then procure the engineering work.  I assume they are being paid for each facet of the project?  The conflict of interest in these situations, I would think, is enormous.  Why wouldn’t they recommend this project and all projects?  After all ,they are a private company existing to make money.

Look at the history of our own city engineers and their association with SEH and their affiliates.  If I’m not mistaken, Tom Pagel worked within this organization prior to becoming City engineer.   Over on the County side, I believe, Engineer Tony Carter also came from this group.  Where did they come from and where do they go when they leave is perhaps the question that needs to be asked and does the City Council and Mayor share culpability by allowing this to go unchecked?

Governmental bodies are required to do long term comprehensive plans with citizen input meetings.  I believe this city also hired SEH to facilitate many of those meetings in the past.  This choice by the city of using this same firm on so many projects, in so many aspects of the project, seems to be embroiled in conflict of interest questions and appears to open the door to reciprocity behind the scenes with no checks and balances to protect the party ultimately paying the bill, you!

Look around folks you have no increasing industrial tax base to carry these projects. However, this may be the reason you have a pilot payment tax, the highest storm water sewer tax in the state, a 2% public project administration tax, a huge building permit tax, an excessive property tax levy and huge assessments. Will you lose your home or property to assessments? Some already have.

Make no mistake, since these are city or county projects I’m sure there is some form of competitive bid process on these projects. The questions to be asked is are these projects conceived out of necessity, or driven by outside engineering firms giving birth to projects in an ongoing marketing effort to sell services?

4 thoughts on “Are infrastructure projects in Grand Rapids running ahead of our needs and our ability to pay?

  1. In a city that is dying, we’re expanding infrastructure instead of fixing what needs fixing. Our leg of Isleview Rd has not been resurfaced since the 70’s, yet they can put in unnecessary “traffic circles” on Golf Course Road. Yeah, right.
    Take a look to Detroit people. Everywhere you keep raising taxes on a community that has not the income base to support them, you eventually end up losing.


  2. token liberal

    I agree that there are some issues here. Also, my sense is that input meetings are largely pro forma. I get the impression that decisions are already made, and that a meeting is held simply for appearance.


    1. I tend to agree on this, and think that the original author if this post had the same point in mind. His, and my, objective in this area is to bring these facts to the public attention so that the members of the public can be made more aware of the situation and choose to be more involved of they wish.


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