By Pat Maurer
About 40 people attended a Special Public Forum at Grant Township’s hall Monday evening.
The topic on the agenda for review and discussion was the conditions of the roads in the township.
Last year Rowe Professional Services prepared a ten-year plan to improve Grant Township roads, with estimated average costs per year of $432,017.28 or $4,320,172 for the ten-year total.
]”There are some things we can do to pare down those annual costs,” Supervisor Dan Dysinger said when the meeting opened.
The township had the funds to do the first year of the massive project this summer, putting in an overlay on just over a mile of roads; crack and Chip sealing just over six miles of paved roads; crack sealing on a little over six and one-half miles; and upgrading several gravel roads. The total costs, including brining of the roads, which is done twice during the summer months, costing $319 for capitol preventive maintenance, plus a $35,000 match with the Clare County Road Commission for engineering and about $19,000 for dust control on the gravel roads for a total of over $370,000.
The township had budgeted $425,000 for roads this year, Dysinger said. The funds were saved over several years.
Steven Clark, Project Administrator for Rowe outlined how his firm had completed the ten-year plan. “We looked at every road and rated each from 10 to 1, with 10 being the best condition and 1 the worst. We looked at cracks, the road base, eroding and cracking issues.”
He continued “Good to fair condition can be saved with crack sealing and fog sealing. The lower end of the ‘fair’ rating can be improved with fog sealing. “ He explained the process for fog sealing as a tar and stone overlay with a third coating to seal in the stone.
“Clark went on, “This year’s road maintenance program was on roads rated between 7 and 3. We chose 7 and higher to extend the life of the roads. He said the typical life of a road is 20 to 25 years. “The ten-year plan,” he said, “would bring all roads in the township to a ‘good’ condition.”
Dysinger said, “Next year we may be able to spend $200,000 to $250,000 on the roads. After that there will be a much lower amount available to spend. After 2014 we will be severely limited, with maybe $50,000 to $90,000 available for the roads. There won’t be any money for new construction. No more gravel roads will be paved.”
Some of the questions from the audience at the forum included what might be on the 2014 ballot at the State level.
Senator Judy Emmons said she really didn’t know. “It could be anything or it could be nothing,” she said. One proposal would increase the taxes for roads. Another proposal has been made to charge a $50 fee for buggies using the roads. The problem is that would be determined in each county. “
Road Commission Manager Ron Bushong said “There will be no funding increase from the State this year, although they have spent the better part of a year working on this. Earlier Senator Boor said there would be $159 million for all 83 counties. After Labor Day the amount was down to $15 million – for all Michigan counties.”
He continued, “Our source of funding in 2004 was $3.8 million. It is down to $3.4 million. It costs one million dollars per mile for paved roads and $1,540 per mile for gravel roads.”
The question of why improvements were not made to Grant Road this year also came up.
Dysinger said, “It would cost $1 million to repave Grant Road from Mannsiding to the stockyards. The road is beyond fixing.”
Also discussed was changing the formula for the gas tax. “That was examined,” Emmons said. “GM is developing a battery driven $30,000 vehicle with a 200 mile range. So we backed off.”
“What would be a more effective way [to increase State funding]? ,” one resident asked.
Road Commissioner Dick Haynak said, “I think an increase in the sales tax would help. Everybody would help fund the roads that way, whether they buy gasoline or not.”
“Even if they raised the gas tax or added a sales tax, how much would we even get up here?,” said Grant Township Clerk Sue Wentworth.
“I believe we would not fare well in the distribution,” Bushong commented. “The Governor is determined not the change the formula until funding is settled. It would take $1.2 billion to bring the State roads to a ‘good’ condition, but it wouldn’t take care of our roads.”
Dysinger brought the meeting back to the township roads. “If we allow our roads to deteriorate, all of the other things [tourism, businesses] won’t matter.”
Township resident Tom Kunse asked, “Are you going to put two mills or three mills on the ballot?”
Dysinger said that hadn’t been determined yet. Two mills would bring in $190,646 annually. Three mills would bring in $325,000 each year. The township would add $40,000 each year from the general fund for the roads.
There are 71 miles or roads in Grant Township and 27 miles are gravel with the rest paved.
Dysinger reported that “two mills may not impact road repairs fast enough to alleviate the extra costs due to accelerated deterioration and inflationary impacts. Three mills would allow repairs enough to forego increased costs.”
He said the Michigan Townships Association estimates that waiting to fund the necessary repairs for the major roadways in Michigan increases costs by $100 million each year.
Bushong pointed out that eight townships in Clare County have road millages. “Any road improvements are a benefit to the whole county,” he said. “Township projects are based on township input.”