Traverse City Record-Eagle

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May 13, 2014

Lafranier Road repairs could wait

TRAVERSE CITY — Grand Traverse County Road commissioners could sideline Lafranier Road improvement projects until next year while they wait to see if county officials are serious about building a new jail.

Road board members will consider revised budget proposals Wednesday during a 4 p.m. meeting at the commission office, located at 1881 Lafranier Road — a pothole-pocked road clearly in need of repairs.

Road commission Manager Jim Cook said he’ll recommend road board members delay work on that road until 2015 as part of an effort to eliminate a deficit of about $800,000 in the commission’s 2014 budget.

“If we’re going to be doing a project there, we want to know what’s going on with the jail,” he said.

An inmate influx recently stretched past the county jail’s current 168-bed capacity, prompting commissioners to revisit a long-shelved plan to build a new, bigger jail at an estimated cost of $30 million.

Cook said county officials he’s spoken with said construction of any new jail is five to 20 years out, but building such a facility near Lafranier Road could require the addition of a center left-turn lane to accommodate additional traffic.

“If we’re doing a project, let’s make it as safe as possible, and let’s try to accommodate future traffic,” he said. “That’s costing the project to be a couple hundred thousand dollars more than we anticipated. That’s why it makes sense to hold off to 2015.”

Road board Chair Marc McKellar said there are additional reasons to delay Lafranier Road work.

“The thing is, we don’t have enough funds individually to tackle that project, and it looks like the partners, which would be the township and the county, are just not in the position to do anything this season,” McKellar said.

Road officials also will watch state lawmakers to see if they approve a special “roads and risk reserve fund.” Cook said he expects legislators to make a decision in the next week or two.

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