Local Road Millage Discussion Begins for Township Board
Road repairs being made on Okemos Road, 2018.
MERIDIAN TOWNSHIP - Roads have been bad in Meridian Township and it appears they will get worse through the winter. When the majority of roads in Meridian will be in excellent condition no one knows.
Consumers aren't waiting for the roads to improve when purchasing their next vehicle. SUV sales are reaching an all time high as drivers look for safer vehicles with higher lines of sight. As the name Sport Utility Vehicle would imply they generally handle bumpy roads better than a family sedan too.
If drivers are willing to spend more for larger vehicles would they also be willing to pay higher taxes to fix local roads?
A recent survey done by the The National Citizen Survey polled residents about various aspects of government and quality of life in Meridian Township.
In the 'How well does the government of Meridian Charter Township meet the needs and expectations of its residents?' section, the survey states,
"All aspects of Built Environment, Economy, Recreation and Wellness, Education and Enrichment and Community Engagement were positive and similar to national averages."
The category not mentioned above was Mobility which had the lowest scores, including the lowest overall category Street Repair, with only 23 percent of residents viewing street repair as good or positive.
Meridian Township's Pavement Surface Evaluation and Rating (PASER) assessment of local roads has been conducted and 31 percent of 147 miles of minor roads are in poor condition.
The Transportation Commission and Township Board are attempting to balance present and future road repairs, whether to patch or resurface. The solution being brought forth to make the repairs is a 2 mill increase worth 35 million dollars over ten years.
The current overall PASER rating of local roads is at a 5 which is Fair. The hope is to have them at a Very Good (8) after 10 years.
Phil Deschaine, Township Treasurer, believes the millage is necessary to catch up on road repairs and maintain fixes. "The way to get there is to spend some money on it. Roads aren't cheap, they aren't free and the number that the consultants have given us right now is $3.5 million a year or $35 million over 10 years."
The current road budget is about a million dollars a year and about 3 miles of work and repairs are done each year. The increase to $3.5 million would allow for about 14 miles of road to be fixed each year.
Meridian Township isn't the only Michigan community facing this kind of road problem.
Supply and demand ripples will be felt throughout the road construction industry as contractors schedules quickly fill for the summer, and asphalt is purchased before it's made.
"It's really an asset management," said Deschaine. "What we do now is we build new roads and we don't have the money to maintain them. So we use them until they just fall off their use life, go back, scrape them, repave them, start over again."
Township leadership is banking on investing in roads now to lessen costs in the future.
The geology of Meridian Township isn't conducive to smooth roads as the soft, swampy ground regularly freezes thus expanding and contracting.
In areas where the conditions are worse officials plan to build the roads up and give them better foundations.
"Particularly out by Lake Lansing, where the soil is very porous, very unstable, very susceptible to our spring flooding, as well as the Grand River Corridor. Much of that is state roads or a county road but that's all beneath the flood plain. So when that floods like it did last year we've got real problems and it's very difficult to maintain a road that's under water."
Increasing taxes isn't a popular thing to do but may be needed to get road repairs under control.
A timeline and map would be provided to see when a neighborhood or street may be repaved or have maintenance done.
"People could look up their road (online) and then by clicking on their road they would be able to see when their road would be fixed. Be it a year from now or 9 years from now, or what would be done between now and then to maintain their roads. So everyone would have a sense of how this would impact the whole township and their particular street or neighborhood. People would have an idea of when they could expect this money to be invested in their neighborhood," said Deschaine.
Time is ticking on road repairs and when exactly to get the millage on an upcoming ballot.
Transparency throughout the entire process will be paramount to gaining residents trust and keeping it for the duration of the project.
The Township Board is certain that this millage is necessary but still need to ensure their constituents are prepared for a long list of road upgrades.