Street repair bond to go to voters in November

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published August 28, 2013

HUNTINGTON WOODS — It has been almost four years since Huntington Woods residents overwhelmingly approved a $7.5 million bond in November 2009 as part of a $50-million, 15-year city street repair project.

This year, residents again will be presented with a $7.5 million bond, as the second phase of the street repair project is set to begin at the end of 2014. The City Commission approved sending the proposed bond to the voters on the Nov. 5 ballot during the Aug. 20 meeting.

“This is a long-term program, and as we pay off older bonds, we sell new bonds, so there is a pretty minimal impact on the taxpayers,” City Manager Alex Allie said. “As the older debt falls off, we are only incurring newer debt, so the tax amount stays fairly consistent for the residents, which went up about 2.8 percent when the first bond passed in 2009.”

Allie said the project is averaging about a mile and a half of repairs per year, as closing more than one road in the square-mile city would cause more problems than it would help.

Over the past several years, Allie said Huntington Woods has been unfortunate as several utilities and roads in the city started to break down around the same time.

“We were in an unfortunate position that Huntington Woods became aged all at once, and as everything pushed 80 years old, water mains, sewers and roads aged, so we took a comprehensive look at a long-term program to replace everything,” Allie said. “Some of our streets haven’t been touched since after World War II, and some streets went from gravel to pavement in the early ’80s, so it was time to rebuild them. We did a study to prioritize everything and we have done the worst (streets) first.”

City Commissioner Jeff Jenks said structures in the city, like City Hall and the Police Department, are also in need of improvements. However, the commission and several residents decided the streets should be the first priority.

Jenks said it is better to get to the roads proactively instead of waiting until there are severe potholes on several of the roads.

“We need those (building) repairs, but they benefit our employees and our focus is on our citizens, not ourselves,” Jenks said. “The roads are what people use and when you start having poor roads, you start increasing the cost of driving a car on that road. In some instances, we transfer expenses to residents because they start paying more for car repairs and things like that because of the old roads.”

Money from the 2009 bond is expected to go into 2014, Allie said, but the bond proposal can only be put on the ballot every two years, so the commission had to approve putting it on this year to have the money for the next phase.

One unforeseen roadblock this time around, Allie said, could be the Detroit bankruptcy.

“The Detroit bankruptcy could raise borrowing costs, but that remains to be seen as (the bonds) will not be sold until the spring of 2014,” he said. “We have an exceptional bond rating, AA+, which is the highest it could be for a city our size, a virtually perfect bond rating. We have very little risk borrowing, especially with voter approval, but nobody knows how the bankruptcy will impact municipal governments borrowing money.”

With voter approval being a big part of getting the bond, Jenks said he has very little concern about the residents passing the new proposal. Historically, he said, about 75 percent or higher of voters have supported past millages and bonds.

“Huntington Woods residents are extremely well-educated and they will vote for something if it benefits the public and themselves,” Jenks said. “They are not pro- or anti-tax; they are pro-city. We can help inform them as elected officials, but they are the reason we are considered nationally one of the best-managed and friendliest cities.”