By Pat Maurer
Vernon Township, which borders the southern Clare County Line and includes a part of Clare City, will ask its voters to approve a road millage on Tuesday.
The Vernon Township board held an informational meeting on the proposal Monday evening at the township hall, but only four township residents attended the meeting.
The board is asking township voters to approve three mills for five years, which would raise $120,000 this year for road improvements.
Three mills means $3.00 for each $1,000 of taxable value, Township Supervisor Jeff Bean explained. “The township is proposing to assess three mills on real estate for five years beginning in December,” he said. “We don’t want to do this. We hate to do this. But, as time goes on the roads are getting a lot worse and the cost to repair them is getting a lot higher. The people have to decide if they want to do this. If they approve this it would add about $120,000 to what we already spend — $22 to $25,000 from the general fund each year.”
Bean said rising road maintenance and construction costs, lower funding from the State Gas Tax and State inaction has resulted in the inadequate funding to maintain township roadways. He said, “In 2012 your Road Commission provided grading and snow plowing activities plus $15,000 towards any roadway construction/reconstruction costs and $3,300 towards brining. The township paid the remainder [of the work done].”
“We are trying to do everything as cheaply as we can and as quickly as we can and get through more miles,” Bean said. “Recently about 2 miles of Vernon Road was paved at about $200,000 per mile. We have ditched several roads. With gravel roads we have to get the water off to maintain them. It costs about $22,000 per mile to maintain gravel roads.”
“The roads are not the responsibility of the township – Roads are the responsibility of the Road Commission,” Bean said, “But now if we want to get roads done for our citizens, we have to pay more of it [the cost].”
He continued, “Even with $120,000 per year if the millage passes; plus we put in $20,000 and the Road Commission puts $20,000, it still won’t pay for even one mile of paving. We need $200 to $240,000 each year to make any headway. We really need some road money reinstated from the state.”
He added that the township board was looking for inexpensive ways to maintain the township roads with the funds they have available.
Bean said the Isabella County Road Commission had rated the paved township roads in 2011 with from a “10 or Excellent” to a “1 or Failed.”
Although none were rated at “Failed,” eleven segments of township roads were rated at “2 or Very Poor” meaning they have “Alligator cracking over 25 percent of the surface, severe distortions over 2 inches deep, potholes and extensive patching in very poor condition.”
Nine areas were identified as a number “3 or Poor” condition with “closely spaced longitudinal and transverse cracks often showing raveling and crack erosion; severe block cracking; some alligator cracking (less than 25 percent); patches in fair to poor condition; moderate rutting or distortion 1 inch or 2 inches deep and occasional potholes.”
The rest of the audited roads were listed in “5 or Fair” condition; “6 or Good” condition; “7 or Good” condition; or in “8 or Very Good” condition. None were listed above an “8.”
The cost to repair the roads with a “6” or lower rating was estimated at $3,908,198.00 with “chip seal,” overlay or reconstruction recommended for the approximately 25.5 miles of township roads.