Two weeks ago, a contingent of Albion residents expressed concern that the city was set to receive matching grant money for a project on Irwin Avenue.
They believed there were greater repair concerns in the city.
Turns out it was a whole lot of commotion about nothing.
On Tuesday, City Manager Mike Herman announced the $375,000 that was to be awarded for the Irwin Avenue project in 2013, through the Michigan Department of Transportation’s Small Urban Program, was being rescinded and reallocated to a Calhoun County Road Commission project because of a misunderstanding between the city and the state.
“MDOT decided they had no money for 2012, they funded all our money for 2013 and they used our 2013 priorities and ignored the 2012 priorities,” Herman said. “MDOT now is going to be sending out a re-do of their schedule (and) they will be using the 2012 priorities.”
Calhoun County’s urban area committee for the Small Urban Program — which consists of Albion, Marshall and the county road commission — was awarded two projects for the grant that covers proposals for 2012-14.
Albion was left out.
“Marshall’s project is first, the road commission’s (on 29 Mile Road in Albion) is second and W. Erie Street was third and they only had enough money to fund two projects — so we don’t get any money for 2013,” Herman said. “We will get money next in 2015. They giveth and they taketh away.”
Herman said W. Erie Street and Maple Street were high-priority projects for the city, but Irwin Avenue was initially funded because it was the city’s proposal for 2013, the year MDOT originally based its decision on.
MDOT Transportation Planner Brandon Wilcox said he reviews the priorities of urban area committees and then has them approved by the statewide planning commission.
He said MDOT wants the projects to “reflect the local needs and priorities for their transportation system” and local entities don’t always provide the most comprehensible plans to evaluate.
“The way locals prioritized the projects could lead to a bit of confusion,” he said. “The locals should identify projects for every particular year in the call … some areas might just have a (list of) prioritized projects for the span of those three years, instead of the individual years, and those different methodologies contribute to a lack of communication about what the top priorities really are.”
Herman said the city of Marshall and the county road commission were also unhappy MDOT did not follow its stated priorities at first and MDOT is essentially just correcting its own mistake.
“None of us knew why MDOT chose 2013 and after talking with them we understood what they did — it just didn’t make any sense to us,” he said. “It’s just a matter of the rotation … and somebody is the loser in this every three years if everyone submits a project.”
The grants are Federal Service Transportation Program dollars reserved for Michigan municipalities of 5,000 to 49,999 residents.
As published in the Jackson Citizen Patriot on Jan. 19, 2011