Bomb squad robots used to appraise homes near sinkhole deemed "too dangerous" to enter

Posted at 4:40 PM, Mar 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-08 16:40:54-05

The Michigan State Police bomb squad was in Fraser on Tuesday morning, but not for a typical call.

Instead, four robots typically used for bomb threats and hostage situations were being used to put eyes inside of the homes threatened by the sinkhole that led to the homes being condemned.

“Unfortunately, they’re never going to be able to get back inside their houses,” said Candice Miller, the Macomb County Public Works Director.

Recently the county set aside roughly $1 million to purchase the three homes, and reimburse the homeowners for their belongings. Miller explained to 7 Actions News that when the government condemns a home they must agree to pay 125-percent of market value for the home.

The robots were brought in so that they could get a better idea of the value of items abandoned inside the homes just before Christmas when residents were forced to rush out due to the sewer collapse beneath their homes.

“I’ll be right inside of here driving,” said Special Sgt. Ashland Bray of the Michigan State Police, explaining how they operate the robots. “Whoever else the spectators will be, they’ll be able to sit right here and see on the TVs. They’ll see exactly what I see, it’s real-time.”

The residents who were affected were allowed to watch the video if they chose too. In an attempt to offer the families some sense of privacy the video is only being seen by those who will appraise the items, and those needed to be involved in the process.

The hope is that a number can be settled on soon, because the county is hoping to demolish the homes in the next 2-3 weeks so that construction can ramp up to build a permanent solution for the sewer system that was damaged.

“They need to come down,” said Miller. “I think it’ll demonstrate to the community that we’re moving forward.”

Bids went out on Monday for companies interested in the working the long-term project that will fix the sewer system and the road.

Miller said she’s hopeful that the entire project is wrapped up sometime around Thanksgiving, but noted that it’s a lofty goal that will depend on Mother Nature cooperating toward the end of the timeframe.