Road hazards of a new kind are abounding as city of Albion officials contemplate how to use street millage funds in the near future.
On Monday, City Manager Mike Herman announced the Michigan Department of Transportation’s decision to do a replacement of Irwin Avenue in 2013 through its Small Urban Program. However, a matching grant was met with varied resistance from elected officials and city residents.
The Irwin Avenue project would cost between $500,000 to $600,000, according to Herman, with the state providing up to $375,000 and the city paying the rest.
The five-year street millage raises roughly $350,000 a year for roadwork and Herman estimates $200,000 or more would be used to match the Small Urban Program. The council has until 2013 to make an official vote on the matching grant.
Councilmember Lenn Reid mirrored sentiments of several Albion residents when she suggested taxpayers have little say which street projects their millage money goes toward.
“It’s ultimately all about perception,” she said. “It’s not going to bother you if you live on a road that gets attention or if you don’t travel down some of the streets that are in terrible condition on a regular basis.”
When Reid asked about a timetable for repairing a local street like Mulberry Road, Herman’s answer launched a full-on debate about the use of millage funds.
“Not in my lifetime or yours probably, because of our funding issue,” he said.
Herman explained council makes the final decision on street millage allocations and he and city staff only provide recommendations based on research and expert advice.
He said three years ago, engineering firm Wade Trim did an “asset management” of every street in Albion — rating them based on condition and repair options — and council modified some of its priorities based on the results.
“We have 50 miles of street in Albion and it’s about $1 million a mile to maintain these streets. We’re raising $350,000 a year from the millage, so figure out how long it’s going to take and it’s going to take 100 years unless we can find a way to get more money,” he said. “And that’s why we keep looking for grants and we take every grant we can get, although sometimes it forces us to adjust our priorities.”
In the case of the Small Urban Program, the National Functional Classification system determines which roads are aid-eligible and Herman said about 18 miles of streets in Albion qualify.
The city also put in requests for major repairs on W. Erie Street and Maple Street, but Herman said MDOT chose Irwin Avenue without disclosing a reason for its decision.
“The local entities submit the priority of the projects to MDOT and MDOT more or less looks at the funding availability … the only selection MDOT does is when it comes to consideration of funding, the maximum (money) available and, of course, the ability of an area to take on a project,” MDOT Transportation Planner Brandon Wilcox said.
Reid said she would fight for more work on local streets by voting against spending large sums of money on matching grants for “major” street projects.
As published in the Jackson Citizen Patriot on Jan. 4, 2011