Grosse Pointe WoodsJuly 23, 2014
Woods seeks road bond proposal
By April Lehmbeck
C & G Staff Writer
GROSSE POINTE WOODS — The roads are a hot topic in Grosse Pointe Woods because there are some that are literally crumbling away with a budget crunch that has left road maintenance on the back burner for several years.
Residents have been putting up their “Vote Yes GPW Roads” signs on lawn after lawn. Besides showing their support with lawn signs, the voters are going to get a chance to make their voice heard at the ballot box during the Aug. 5 election.
There are stories of the frustration with the roads including one resident who commented on the GPW Residents for Roads Facebook page that he had more than $2,000 damage to his vehicle thanks to a pothole.
“The roads need to be fixed, and there’s no other money to fix them,” said resident George McMullen Jr., chair of the GPW Residents for Roads group.
The proposal asks the voters to decide on a $10 million, 10-year road bond proposal. The city has been unable to pay for needed road improvements in recent years, instead funding a small amount for patching and repairing.
The problem with that approach has been that every year the city ignores roads, the cost to repair them skyrockets because they continue to deteriorate, needing more and more costly repairs, city officials have said.
If approved, the bond will allow the city to fix about a mile of road each year for 10 years, McMullen said.
The city’s financial constraints are a product of a significant loss in property tax dollars, which many communities have been battling since the economic downturn in 2008.
Grosse Pointe Woods has seen a 30 percent drop in its property values, necessitating tough fiscal decisions at the City Council table.
“The sacrificial lamb has been the roads,” McMullen said.
The city sent a road proposal to the voters in 2012, which failed with some residents wanting the city to tighten its belt. Since then, they’ve done a lot of belt tightening.
“A lot more cuts have been made since the last bond has been put on the ballot,” McMullen said.
Unlike last time, there isn’t an organized anti-bond proposal at work in the city.
Earlier this year, Council member Kevin Ketels emphasized the work that the city has done to be fiscally responsible and make cuts to get where they are today.
“While revenue has declined, we have been fiscally prudent,” he said, adding that the city needs to show that “we’ve gone through a lot of pain. This is what we’ve done, and we still need your help.”
As for the state of the roads, there are portions of roads like Sunnydale where the roads and curbs are deteriorating. There are others where people aren’t able to park in front of their homes unless they want their tires in a pothole.
GPW Residents for Roads group has been posting some photos of spots throughout the city on its Facebook page asking people to guess the street name.
Besides a smoother driving surface, the group is trying to get the word out to residents about the other benefits including helping with property values.
“A prospective buyer isn’t going to want to drive on a ‘country road,’” the group states on its website.
While residents can keep their lawns manicured and their flower beds blooming, the state of the roads can hurt the aesthetic appeal of a neighborhood, according to the group.
They claim poor road conditions can create a lapse in the pride people take in their neighborhoods, inviting blight.
Like the resident who commented on the Facebook page, poorly maintained roads have been known to cause damage to cars that hit pocketbooks for costly repairs, according to the group.
City Council members have all expressed how important this proposal is to the city and its neighborhoods.
Residents can get more information on the proposal including a road inventory map, which points out the road needs for every street including those in need of immediate replacement.
While the immediate needs designation means those roads are the highest priority, Council member Vicki Granger points out that that doesn’t mean other nearby roads won’t get more immediate attention, as well. Sometimes a road and other nearby ones are packaged together in a bid for work for various reasons.
City officials have said that holding off on funding road improvements will cause the problem to become more costly down the road.
If approved, a homeowner with a property that had a taxable value of $100,000 or actual value of $200,000, would pay almost $140 a year.
For more information from the GPW Residents for Roads, visit http://www.gpwresidentsforroads.org.