Traverse City Record-Eagle

June 27, 2013

Road millage likely to appear on 2013 ballot

BY MICHAEL WALTON mwalton@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Clearing snow off Grand Traverse County’s roads isn’t cheap, and voters might be asked to pick up some of that tab in November.

The Grand Traverse County Road Commission will discuss a winter maintenance millage for the November ballot during their monthly meeting tonight.

Road board members have not pinned down specifics, but road commission Manager Jim Cook said plowing costs last winter totaled more than $3 million, roughly 25 percent of the commission’s overall budget.

“If we had a winter maintenance millage we could take that $3 million and put it right back into road maintenance and construction,” Cook said.

Consideration of the millages comes roughly two weeks after Grand Traverse County’s Board of Commissioners rejected a road board request for a 50-50 split of a $6 million bond to fund repairs on the worst sections of heavily used county roads.

County commissioners said the county can’t afford the bond payments, but they supported a possible winter maintenance millage, Cook said.

The road commission could vote to approve a millage plan tonight, which would then go to the county board next month.

Road Commissioner John Nelson supports a road millage but wants to ensure any local money raised is destined for local roads only.

“I want to make sure the money is used for maintaining and preserving our current system,” Nelson said.

Voters in Leelanau County have approved their own .5-mil winter maintenance millage every other year since 1986, most recently in August 2012 by 77 percent of voters.

That millage produces about $1.1 million, which pays for overtime related to snow removal and equipment replacements. Left over millage money is used for maintaining existing roads.

Cook said Grand Traverse road officials will consider a millage with a short renewal period.

“Every few years we would go back to the public and say, ‘how are we doing? Will you support another millage?’” Cook said.

Grand Traverse County last floated a road millage in November 2010. That measure sought a 1-mil increase for four years. Voters rejected it by about 4,700 votes.