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News and quick-hit commentary from around mid-Michigan ... from the Morning Sun.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Union Township and the Road Commission

I had an interesting conversation with a Union Township resident following Wednesday night's township planning commission meeting. I didn't take verbatim notes, but this is close to the way the conversation went:

RESIDENT: Hey, do you go to Road Commission meetings? (Clearly unhappy)
MARK: Well, I cover some of the road commission issues, yes. (Hoo, boy. Another round of ICRC-bashing, coming right up.)
R: I don't know. I live on Pickard Road, and I can't understand why they resurfaced it to Meridian, then quit right there. Our road is a disaster. They claim they don't have any money, but they did a lot of work out in Deerfield.
M: That's because Deerfield Township paid for all of it.
R: What?
M: Deerfield Township had a pretty serious fund balance. They're pretty tight with a dollar there, and they had plenty of money in the bank. They decided to spend it on the roads. [I looked it up later; Deerfield Township paid 100 percent of the cost of chip-sealing more than 18 miles of road in the township.]
R: It's real nice job.
M: Well, chip-sealing is supposed to extend the life of pavement by seven to 10 years. I think Deerfield paid a little over $12,000 a mile for all that work.
R. You'd think with the taxes I pay to the road commission ...
M: Do you know how the road commission gets its money?
R: Taxes.
M: What kind?
R: Like county taxes.
M: No. The Isabella County Road Commission gets most of its money from fuel taxes and registrations. There's a flat rate of 19.7 cent a gallon on gas, so if more gas is sold, the road commssion gets more money. The state sends out checks based on an insanely complicated formula. But gas is $3 a gallon. Are we burning more gas? No. We're driving less. Less gas sold, less money for roads.
R: Not property taxes?
M: Some counties have them, and their roads are in better shape. But you get what you pay for, and you don't get what you don't pay for. We're not getting what we're not paying for.
R: What about Baseline Road? Where'd they get the money for that?
M: Ever hear of Jack Abramoff? When he lobbied for the Tribe, he did bring money back. That's mostly federal money through the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The townships also put in a lot of money. So did the road commission -- and they got stuck with the cost overrruns. And man, were there overruns! The swamp they ran the road through was a lot deeper than anyone thought it was, and it almost sank the road commission.
R: How about Bluegrass Road?
M: A lot of private money. The developers of Union Commons are paying half the cost, plus all the cost of the drain work. The other propery owners along there were assessed for road improvements, too. The township put in $300,000 to make it happen, along with a little road commission money, but not much.
R: Broadway Road by the casino?
M: The Saginaw Chippewas paid for the whole thing. Write a check to the road commission, and they'll do the work.
R: Think Union Township might pay for Pickard? You said it was, what, $12,000 a mile?
M: That's for chip-sealing, and that's cheap. Pickard between Lincoln and Meridian is in too bad a shape to chip-seal. They'll have to tear the whole thing out and do it over, and that ain't cheap. The township has said for years that they'll pay half, but I wouldn't bet on them paying for the whole thing. And until the road commission comes up with their half, well ...
R: I'm going to have to keep fixing my front end. Hey, I'm glad I talked to you. Thanks for setting me straight. Think I ought to talk to the township supervisor?
M: You live in Union. He's the supervisor. You can ask.

Comments? E-mail them to me so you can become part of the discussion. I'll post most reasonable comments. Just make sure you include your name, address and telephone number, so I can follow up if necessary. I won’t post your personal information, but I want to know who I’m dealing with.


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