Traverse City Record-Eagle

November 6, 2013

Voters give a thumbs-up on road repair millage

BY ANNE STANTON astanton@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Area voters, fed up with crumbling roads and pot holes, narrowly approved a $13 million-plus tax request to repair Grand Traverse County roads on a vote of 8,809 to 8,697 votes.

The proposed 1-mill increase for three years will cost the owner of a $200,000 home an extra $100 a year.

Juli Ackely, of Long Lake Township, said Grand Traverse County’s “horrible” roads were foremost on her mind when she voted for the tax hike.

“There are potholes and chunks of pavement coming out everywhere,” she said.

The Grand Traverse County Road Commission will spend $4.4 million annually for three years. The commission said the millage will put county road repair on a faster track, and they developed a strategy to review and rank county roads.

Road Commissioner John Nelson said the road commission can now go forward with its asset management plan, which will take about 20 years. It would have taken twice as long to repair roads had the millage failed, he said.

“Every year we will post the projects we’ll be doing and people will be able to weigh in on those. We’ll bring the roads from 80 percent failing roads to good roads,” he said.

Road Commission Manager Jim Cook and Road Commission Chair Carl Brown were unavailable for comment.

The final tally will be good news for Ethel Boratynski and Michelle Runyon, who live in an Acme Township adult foster care home on a Holiday Hills side road.

“We’re bumpety-bumpety-bump for about five minutes before we hit a smooth road,” Boratynski said.

Jean DuCheney of Acme Township said her yes vote was all about “strong community.”

“People look at us a destination, but we have to take care of those who live here now,” she said.

But Sharon Foster of Acme worried that the state’s high tonnage limits mean future road repairs won’t last long.

“We have the highest tonnage on our roads of the surrounding states, and I’m not going to pay higher taxes until they address that,” Foster said.

Jeff Campbell and his wife Heather Campbell, of Blair Township, thought road commissioners asked for too much with the proposed 1-mill increase.

“That’s a huge chunk of money to the taxpayers,” Jeff Campbell said.

Mike Koper, of Long Lake Township, was optimistic about Cook, but he said it wasn’t the right time to support the hefty millage increase.

“I know there is funding needed, but I think we needed to take a step back and let the new manager work with what he’s got for another year,” Koper said.

John Dane, a Long Lake Township voter, was impressed with how Cook has performed in his first year on the job and commended the road commission’s snow removal services last winter.

“A year ago I would have voted no, but after this year I’ll give them my support,” he said.

The vote will come as bad news for Daniel Bruce of Williamsburg. He believes the property tax assessment on his home is unfairly high, and property values are expected to rise even more.

“I can’t afford the taxes,” he said.

But Central High School Principal Rick Vandermolen thinks better roads will lift the entire community.

“I think in order to attract economic activity to the region, we need to have good infrastructure,” he said.

A total of $3.5 million will go to the road commission, $750,000 to Traverse City, $27,600 to the Village of Kingsley and $11,300 to Fife Lake.