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The Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians may step in to use federal funds to repave Holiday Road in East Bay Township.

Renee Kaufman keeps her fingers crossed, and she avoids excited talk with neighbors over the prospects of a major fix to ratty, rutted Holiday Road.

But Kaufman and countless other Holiday Road critics can’t help but be pleased that they have a new ally in their fight for a smoother, safer road: the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, which may help resolve the bumpy problem that two townships, neighbors and the Grand Traverse County Road Commission repeatedly failed to fix.

The tribe asked the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs to list Holiday Road as part of the tribal road network and sought $1.5 million in construction funds to repair it.

“I’m just so thrilled. I just think its fabulous,” said Kaufman, who unsuccessfully worked on millage campaigns and sought grants to fix the road. “I’m not telling any of my neighbors; I just don’t want to get hopes up again and not have it go through.”

Tribal Chairman Derek Bailey said he’s optimistic Holiday Road will be included in the tribal network because tribal members live in the area and use the road that serves several subdivisions in Acme and East Bay townships. Funding is a different matter.

“That’s up to the tribal council, and we have a lot of roads that need repair, including our own,” Bailey said.

The county road commission in recent years gave the tribe a list of priority road projects in hopes of receiving funding, and the tribe responded by directing millions of dollars in federal transportation money to repave Bates, Lautner, Secor, and East Silver Lake roads.

The road commission this year included Holiday Road as well as a half-dozen other possible projects because it effectively ran out of options for Holiday, said Mary Gillis, road commission manager.

Property owners along Holiday Road repeatedly scuttled special assessment districts that would have burdened them with a disproportionate share of construction costs. Voters in Acme and East Bay townships rejected millage attempts in 2009 and 2010 to raise money to fix Holiday and other local roads that don’t qualify for traditional federal transportation funding.

The BIA program doesn’t carry the Federal Highway Administration’s restriction against funding local-use roads, said Robert Kalbfleisch, the tribe’s land and roads manager.

In March, the tribal council submitted nine projects to the BIA worth about $3.8 million for 2011 funding, including Holiday Road; $200,000 for a section of South Airport Road and $90,000 for the redesign of the intersection of Bates Road and M-72 in Acme Township.

The BIA will soon determine which projects qualify for funding and notify the tribe how much funding will be available, Kalbfleisch said. The tribal council will make the final call on projects and spending.

Holiday Road was the tribe’s lowest priority and traditionally would be the first council members would cut if funding drops below $3.8 million, Kalbfleisch said.

The road commission set aside $50,000 for design work, should the project get approved, and will ask East Bay and Acme townships to chip in $50,000 apiece.

Acme would go along because Holiday Road impacts so many residents, said township Supervisor Wayne Kladder.

Glen Lile, who lives on Holiday Road, said he doesn’t know if his board would fund the project or look to create a special assessment district to tax area residents. He’d gladly pay his share.

“If you can get someone to kick in this much money on a project, you have to do whatever you can to make it happen,” he said. “You’d be crazy not to.”

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