May 27 • 02:04 AM

Drain commissioner to retire this month

John Cosens steps down after 22 years at helm in Lapeer County

December 15, 2010
LAPEER COUNTY — Three candidates have applied to become the county's next drain commissioner. Current commissioner John Cosens will retire at the end of the month after 22 years on the job. Since it's an elected position and two years remain in Cosens term, a committee of three county officials—Clerk Marlene Bruns, Probate Judge Justus Scott and Prosecutor Byron Konschuh—are tasked with the job of naming his replacement.

Bruns said the committee was slated to meet on Tuesday to review the applications and schedule interviews. Bruns is hopeful they can name a new drain commissioner before the end of the year. The position pays $52,290 annually.

Cosens has overseen the drain office for the last 22 years and worked there for the last 30. He also spent three years as a parks employee. Cosens says there's no particular reason he notified the clerk of his retirement intentions in early November.

"I want to be retired…I've been here long enough," Cosens said with a chuckle.

Whoever succeeds Cosens will be tasked with managing 500 miles of county drain and a five person department.

"This isn't the kind of job you can go to school for," he said. "I was fortunate in that I worked with several drain commissioners before taking the job myself. There's a lot of history to these drains."

He said it's been gratifying to see various public works projects come to fruition in Lapeer County municipalities. Cosens is also proud that the county office has invested in good equipment which means maintenance projects can be tended to more swiftly and easily. This summer, an in-house project on the Belle River, just north of M-21 on M-53 in Imlay City, saved the county $30,000.

"Those guys are good," Cosens said of his two-man work crew. "They can build a beautiful ditch, if there's such a thing."

One longstanding project has been the Mill Creek. The second stage of bottom clean-out will be done on the North Branch next year.

Of course, there have been plenty of challenges. The first one that comes to mind—"those 100 year storms that seem to happen every five years," Cosens said.

"We have 500 miles of county drain which is a small number compared to surrounding counties but it constantly needs attention."

Another project on the horizon that will require some of his successor's time is Genesee County's plan to draw water from Lake Huron. Although the county is not investing in the project, the drain commissioner sits on the Karegnondi Water Authority board.

Cosens gives kudos to his employees. In addition to the two-person work crew, there's a deputy drain commissioner and two office staff.

"I've had good people working for me," he said.

Maria Brown joined the Tri-City Times staff in 2003, the same year she earned a bachelor's degree in English from Calvin College. Born and raised in Imlay City, she now resides north of Capac where she enjoys working on the farm, gardening and reading.
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