BY MELANIE YOUNG
Grosse Ile Township’s roads are a continual hot topic of conversation among island residents and visitors. Many people are concerned about the condition of the most heavily traveled routes in the township. Social media is abuzz with comments like, “The roads must be addressed,” and “West River is dangerous.” Township officials have been listening and are responding.
The Department of Public Services Commission has taken up the issue and has begun a process of investigating what the problems are and how to fix them. At the Sept. 12 meeting, Committee Chairman Bill Costick spoke of how he had asked township engineers to create a proposal to improve the roads. He asked them to measure every segment of road width and depth and projected costs to repair for 2019.
Areas of concern were identified and prioritized into a segment numbering system with costs of repairing each segment. The roads listed in the segments include parts of East River, Church, Ferry, Horsemill, West River, Southpointe and Parke Lane.
Some ideas for millages and funding were also discussed. Ideas included requesting 1 mill for 12 years that would raise $600,000 a year; 1.25 mills per year that would raise $750,000 per year.
Road millage requests are not new to Grosse Ile residents. A 2010 request for 1 ¾ mills for five years was defeated by 3229-2034 votes. In 2015, officials requested authorization to bond $18 million over 20 years with half going to water main replacement and half going to roads. This would have cost taxpayers 2.12 mills per year. It was defeated by a vote of 1361-1075.
This information was formally presented in a public hearing on Oct. 10. According to Jim Budny, liaison to the DPS Commission from the Board of Trustees, the list is preliminary.
“The projects presented were for the purpose of getting the discussion going,” said Budny.
“We have no plan yet. We’re at the very beginning of this process,” Costick reassured residents.
Chairman Costick opened the meeting by discussing how roads are funded in Michigan and on Grosse Ile. The primary funding source for roads in Michigan is the fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees. Out of the money raised, 39 percent goes to MDOT for stare highways, 39 percent goes to the counties for county roads and 22 percent goes to cities and villages. Townships, such as Grosse Ile, receive no funding for roads. Grosse Ile must rely on Wayne County, which only does maintenance by filling pot holes, and plowing in the winter.
Grosse Ile residents currently pay a road maintenance millage of .4 mills that brings in about $100,000 a year. That money is used for roadside mowing, winter maintenance, Wayne County Priority service and dust control. The township has no other money allocated in its yearly budget for roads.
Costick mentioned that Wayne County’s list of road projects for 2018 did not include one Grosse Ile road.
At the hearing, several residents spoke up about their concerns about various roads in the township, including West River from the Wastewater Treatment Plant to Church Road. It was revealed that the section of road and watermain would be replaced next year. The project is currently in the engineering and design phase. The township will cover the costs of replacing the watermain and pavement of the east side of the road. Costick indicated that the Wayne County Department of Public Service has verbally authorized local funding to resurface the other side of the road, so both sides will be repaved if the township can receive a written agreement.
Contractor bids will go out in December, with construction starting in March and ending in the summer of 2018. Budny clarified that the funds for this project are coming from the Drain Fund, and the only reason the road is being replaced is because the water main will be located under the pavement.
Concerns were raised about the width of the road and if it can be widened to accommodate bike and pedestrian traffic. Costick indicated that there is no available right of way to increase the width.
Budny was happy with the public’s response to the meeting and said they want to start communicating with the residents early this time to avoid a defeat like in 2015. The commission plans to hold more meetings after the holiday season.
A discussion of Grosse Ile roads wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the Grosse Ile Bridge owned by Wayne County. As of this writing, the bridge is being shut down from 9 a.m.-3 p.m., one day a month. Wayne County claims it is for inspections until the span can be repaired. The Township has also not yet received a report on the condition of the bridge and what steps will be taken to repair it. The township was told that this report would be completed in August.
It is clear that both residents and township officials agree that many of the most traveled roads in the township need work. The work of the Public Service Commissioners will be to convince residents that the only way the roads will be fixed is if residents pay for them. All documents referenced can be obtained from the DPS offices at Township Hall.