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Road assessment on Aug. 5 ballot


May 15, 2014
GROSSE POINTE PARK — Voters will be asked in August to approve a five year, 1.75 mil assessment for road repair following a vote by the city council at its meeting Monday night.

If approved, the assessment will raise $5 million, and work could begin as early as September.

"The maintenance of our roads is so fundamental, we hope people will give us a favorable response," said Mayor Palmer Heenan.

Councilman Bob Denner cited a number of reasons as to why a special assessment is being put before the voters.

"Most of our road maintenance was included in our annual budgets, but when the economy hit a rough patch, in 2007, our property tax revenues declined, but the need for city services did not," he said. "We still had to provide public safety, pay for trash collection and for our parks. We cut our budget, and what got pushed aside was capital improvement money."

And then there is the obvious.

"We had a horrific winter, and our roads are awful," Denner added.

What the city hopes to accomplish, Denner explained, is to use the assessment to repave most of the city's 26 miles of local streets, starting with those in the worst shape such as Audubon and Buckingham, or phase one of the project, and over the five years of the assessment, make all the repairs that are needed in three phases.

"That would put us on a solid footing going forward and we can put annual maintenance back into our budget," Denner said.

Councilman Dan Clark said that another reason the annual maintenance budget was slashed was the cut in revenue sharing from the state.

"We relied on state shared revenue and that has been cut dramatically," he said. "We're not alone, every city is facing the problem, especially as it relates to roads. If we don't do the repairs now, the costs will only increase. We have to deal with this now."

Councilman Dan Grano said that he will be supporting the special assessment, even as he cited his conservative anti-tax stance.

"I will be wholeheartedly supporting this assessment," he said. "This is the most cost effective way to fix our roads. On a house worth $200,000, it amounts to $175 per year."

Grano also noted that cuts in revenue sharing from Lansing are putting a burden on local communities.

"Practical conservatives need to stand up and tell them all they are doing is forcing cities to raise taxes," he said.

City treasurer Jane Blahut pointed out if revenue sharing is re-instated, that money would be used for road repair and the special millage rate would be adjusted.

If approved, work would be done in three phases, with the first phase set to begin immediately, said city manager Dale Krajniak. An engineering study of the Park's streets has already been conducted, and the worst streets have been identified.

Those streets require complete reconstruction, while those included in phase two require structural improvements, with phase three roads requiring preventative work. Of the $5 million, $3 million would be spent on phase one work.

According to Clark, if the city is forced to wait to begin the work, the roads will get even worse so even those streets identified as needing just preventative work now will require even more expensive work when the money is available.

Residents will vote on the issue at the primary election, set Tuesday, Aug. 5.

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