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Grosse Pointe City

July 31, 2014

City outlines road millage at forum

By K. Michelle Moran
C & G Staff Writer

City leaders are hoping voters will agree that local roadways need a lot more help than the City has been able to afford in recent years.

On Tuesday, Aug. 5, voters are being asked to approve a new millage strictly for roadwork of up to 2.5 mills for up to 15 years, which officials say would raise an additional $825,000 each year. City administrators and engineers held a public forum to explain the current condition and how the millage would enable the City to make needed fixes during a public forum in City Council chambers July 29, but officials far outnumbered the City residents — who totaled four — in the audience.

The City has 8.41 miles of major streets, 11.6 miles of local streets and .73 miles of private streets, for a total of 20.74 miles. Of those, 4.14 miles are concrete, 15.73 miles are asphalt or composite and .13 miles — specifically, Woodland Place — are brick.

Of those, the majority — 15.73 miles — are asphalt/composite, which Patrick Phelan, a senior project engineer with Anderson, Eckstein and Westrick Inc., explained means asphalt pavement over a concrete base. Most of the remainder are concrete, at 4.14 miles.

In recent years, because of the sharp decline in property tax and other revenue, the City has been able to allocate about $250,000 annually for roads, and that’s all the City expects it could spend over the next five years without a millage, Dame said. In addition, there are only five years’ worth of funding at this level left.

The handful of streets eligible for federal aid — Kercheval, Cadieux, Waterloo, St. Clair and Fisher — have benefited from such funds in recent years, and because the City match is relatively small — 20 percent — the City has been able to tackle those projects, Phelan said. However, the millage would focus on the local streets, which have an average condition rating of 5.5 on a scale of 1-10, where 8-10 is good and requires little or no maintenance, fair is 5-7 and requires capital preventative maintenance, and 1-4 is poor and calls for reconstruction or other major rehabilitation, Phelan said.

Since the City began conducting annual street condition surveys in 2006, “The good streets have stayed relatively level,” Phelan said. “But what you do find is the fair streets … starting to turn into poor streets.”

And, he said, as the condition rating decreases, “The cost per mile goes up.”

At $250,000 per year, Phelan said, it would take almost 15 years to rehabilitate streets with a rating of 4 or 5. However, that’s greater than the life expectancy of the streets, which averages seven to 10 years using the current rehabilitation method of milling and resurfacing with curb capping, he said.

“It’s evident that the funding (available now) is inadequate,” Phelan said.

The annual evaluations by the City’s engineers have determined that better than half of the roads in the city are in poor condition, while about 40 percent are in fair condition. Less than 10 percents are classified as being in good condition. Under the 2.5 mill proposal, by 2030, more than 20 percent of the roads would be in good condition, more than 60 percent would be in fair condition and just under 10 percent would be in poor condition. The remaining service life for all road types would increase dramatically with the millage, as well.

“If approved, it would allow the City to substantially improve the condition of the streets and institute a comprehensive pavement improvement plan,” City Manager Pete Dame said.

Concrete lasts longer than asphalt, and while concrete usually is more expensive, Phelan said the City can bid out projects to compare asphalt with concrete costs, because it might make more sense to go with concrete if the differences aren’t as high between both forms of road materials.

The average City home has a market value of $264,246 and a taxable value of $132,123, meaning that such a resident’s taxes would increase by $330 under the proposed millage, Dame said. He said the City Council could decide not to levy the millage for the full 15 years, or they could reduce the amount of the millage if 2.5 mills wasn’t deemed necessary in one or more years of the millage term.

A City resident at the forum who asked that her name not be printed said she was in favor of the proposal.

“I hope it passes, because the roads are in terrible shape,” she said.

A fellow City resident in attendance agreed.

“There’s no question it’s needed,” Bob O’Bryan said following the forum.

At press time, officials didn’t have a Plan B in mind if voters reject the millage request.

“We have great expectations that our informed citizens will see this as a positive vote for the long-term benefit of the City, and we really haven’t considered the alternatives (if voters don’t approve the millage),” Mayor Dale Scrace said after the forum.

If the millage is approved, Dame said work would begin next year.

For ballot language and more about the City’s millage proposal, visit www.grossepointecity.org, email city@grossepointecity.org or call (313) 885-5800.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer K. Michelle Moran at kmoran@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1047.