BY MICHAEL WALTON email@example.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Grand Traverse County commissioners doubt they can pony up half the cost of a proposed $6 million bond to fund road repairs.
County Road Commission officials will request a 50-50 split of the $6 million bond price tag during a county commission committee meeting tonight.
The bond request is a local attempt to fix the worst sections of heavily used roads in light of stagnant road funding from the state, road board Chairman Carl Brown said.
"This is a way, on a local basis, we can give back and do some improvements on our own," he said.
The bond request, if approved, would fund $4 million in repairs aimed at 38 miles of major roads throughout 10 townships. The other $2 million would fund the purchase of new equipment for the road commission.
But county commission Chairman Herb Lemcool said paying off the bond would seriously reduce a fund balance the county aims to keep at its present level — about 18 percent — to roughly 8 percent in just three years.
"And that's not smart business," Lemcool said.
Commissioner Larry Inman said the county needs to address its own operating budget structural shortfall — predicted to be about $1 million in 2014 — before committing to annual bond payments.
Inman also criticized state lawmakers' inability to address statewide road funding problems.
"We're just getting the feeling they are laying it in our laps," Inman said.
Gov. Rick Snyder identified roads as Michigan’s “toughest single issue” in his 2013 State of the State address. He mentioned several options for garnering more road funding statewide, including increasing the gas tax and vehicle registration taxes, but legislators so far have not enacted any of Snyder's ideas, nor have they agreed on alternative, long-term ways to fund road repairs.
State Rep. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Schmidt could not be reached for comment.
Lemcool said he thinks only a local road millage will drum up money to repair Grand Traverse County's roads.
"I don't see anyway around that," he said.
Lemcool said the county could seek either a snow removal millage or a blanket road millage, but officials have not discussed when either could happen.
Traverse City commissioners this week shelved a multi-million dollar bond proposal for street reconstruction in the city until the spring of 2015. Borrowing from $10 to $20 million would have allowed the city to roll a decade or more or road projects into two or three years.
A successful 1-mil county roads millage would bring an estimated $700,000 a year to the city for its own road work.