Grosse Pointe Farms holds second public hearing on November road millage

Public Zoom meeting with city’s engineers scheduled for next week

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published September 22, 2020

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GROSSE POINTE FARMS — Although the Grosse Pointe Farms City Council had already held a public hearing Aug. 10 on a proposed road millage — voting unanimously in favor of it at that time — the council decided to hold a second public hearing on the subject a month later.

“This is a little bit unusual,” City Manager Shane Reeside said when introducing the second public hearing during a Sept. 14 City Council meeting via Zoom. He said a public notice about the first meeting had been published in one local paper, but to “give opportunity for (additional) public comment” and to answer questions received from residents over the last month, city officials decided to publish a second notice and hold a second hearing.

“It’s our position wholly that the first meeting was properly noticed,” Mayor Louis Theros said. “We’re just doing this to allow for (more public comment).”

In August, the council voted in favor of ballot language requesting up to 2 mills annually for five years to do road repairs and related work, such as sidewalks, alleys and parking lots.

If approved by voters, the millage would increase the Farms tax rate from 14.95 mills to 16.95 mills starting in December 2020 and running through December 2024. It would raise $1,669,600 in the first year. Over the course of five years, assuming that the council retains the rate of 2 mills each year and taxable values increase by 1.5% annually, the road millage would raise more than $8.06 million in additional road funding.

For a homeowner with a house that has a market value of $400,000 and a taxable value of $200,000, the road millage would add $400 to the tax bill in the first year, or a little less than $34 per month. Farms officials note that even with a 2-mill increase, the Farms would maintain the lowest tax rate of all of the Grosse Pointes.

Although the Farms has been setting aside funds every year for roadwork, officials say it’s no longer enough to maintain the roads. At the end of the road construction season this year, the city’s engineers say the Farms will have an average PASER road rating of 3.6. In the PASER system, streets are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 10, with good meaning a rating of 8 to 10, fair meaning a rating of 5 to 7, and poor meaning a rating of 1 to 4.

During the five-year millage span, City Controller Debra Peck Lichtenberg said, the average Farms road rating is expected to increase from a PASER rating of 3.6 to one of 4.6. It might not sound like much, but she said that “is significant.”

The city intends to continue using about $500,000 in general fund revenue to repair roads during the bond, so even if residents don’t see their road on the millage list, Peck Lichtenberg said that doesn’t mean that road won’t be fixed in the next five years.

“We anticipate having a very far-reaching road improvement program,” she said.

City Councilman Lev Wood concurred, saying “several other roads” not on the millage schedule would be tackled.

“Just because your road segment isn’t on that list doesn’t mean it’s not going to get repaired,” Wood said. “This (millage) is more about ‘we’ than ‘me.’… This is a citywide effort to improve the quality of our roads.”

Resident Andy Dervan said he was concerned about both the amount of the millage and what he felt was the lack of data being provided by the city demonstrating the need for this work.

City Councilman John Gillooly responded directly to Dervan’s concerns.

“We’re sensitive about raising the millage rate,” Gillooly said. “The (road) data has been sought by the city of Grosse Pointe Farms. We’ve been analyzing it for months, if not for years. … We’ve got to do something about our infrastructure. It’s pretty self-evident when you travel around the community some of these roads … are in bad condition.”

At the end of the discussion, the council voted unanimously again in favor of putting the road millage on the November ballot.

Reeside said they will be hosting an administrative meeting via Zoom with the city’s engineers from Hubbell, Roth & Clark Inc. that will be open to the public. Residents will be able to find out what PASER ratings for roads mean, how the engineers rate the quality of roads and other topics, Reeside said. At press time, that meeting was slated to take place at 7 p.m. Oct. 1 via Zoom.

For more information, visit the city’s website at grossepointefarms.org.