Road repairs receive green light after election victory

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published November 12, 2014

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ROYAL OAK — City Engineer Matt Callahan will be busy throughout the next 10 years following a narrow victory for a road millage that will support the Royal Oak street system.

“It means a whole lot of work,” he said. “Right now, I’m starting to make notes to myself and look at preliminary deadlines.”

Callahan said the first order of business is to look at the whole project and start addressing who is going to do what.

“We have to divide the work up into chunks of like-types of work and start getting our consultants on board to work with us to get us proposals to start designing some of that work up and putting the contracts together,” he said.

Callahan said some work would begin in 2015, but most of the work would require planning, design, bidding and approval, so it would start in 2016.

Unofficial Nov. 4 results by the Oakland County Elections Division show that 54 percent of the voters approved amending the City Charter to allow Royal Oak to levy a tax of up to 2.5 mills for a period not to exceed 10 years for capital repairs to the city’s street system, including repairs to local streets. The vote was 11,854 for the millage to 10,228 against it.

Taxing will begin on the December 2014 winter tax bill. The money generated through the millage can only be used for Royal Oak streets. It cannot be used for any other purpose.

If levied in full, the city will generate $5 million annually to put into the street system for capital improvements, including road repair, surface road replacement, curbs, and gutters and drain improvements. This will cost a resident with a taxable home value of $72,000 about $180 annually.

The city is ahead of the vote, as the commission approved Oct. 20 the 2014 Proposed Management Program & Millage Plan of Action, which illustrates a detailed street-by-street look at which streets will be improved, when the improvements will occur, the cost and the type of repair. The document is available by visiting www.ci.royal-oak.mi.us.

“Every street in the city is listed,” Mayor Jim Ellison said.

Callahan said when developing the plan, city staff looked at six major items: street system history, road rating, materials and methods, funding, unapproved roads, and staffing needs.

Ellison said city officials recently approved moving all streets needing complete replacement into the first five years of the project.

“The roads that are really bad we’re putting a priority on and that is not going to affect any of the other roads that are scheduled,” Ellison said.

Callahan said communication with the residents will be a top priority throughout the project. He said officials are discussing creating a dedicated page on the city’s website so residents may keep up with the repairs to minimize the inconvenience associated with road construction.

“It’s going to be a one-stop information center,” Callahan said.

Royal Oak has about 215 miles of road and more than 147 miles of local streets. Callahan said the vast majority of the millage funds would go toward the 147 miles of local streets.

Currently, the city has about $3 million to spend on roads with more than half of that amount going to the Department of Public Service for snow removal, pothole patching, sweeping, signs and signals.

Callahan said that of the remaining $1.3 million, the state requires that only 25 percent can be used for capital improvements and local streets. Funding comes from Act 51 money collected by the state as part of vehicle registration fees, and gasoline and diesel fuel tax.

City of Royal Oak Community Engagement Specialist Judy Davids said city officials decided to come to the public for a vote, as a 2013 study showed 67 percent of the random sample of residents polled thought road maintenance should be near the top of the list for funding, coming in second to police services.

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