With road millage approval, Grosse Pointe Farms to get bids for 2021 projects

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published December 8, 2020


GROSSE POINTE FARMS — As Grosse Pointe Farms residents start to receive their winter tax bills this month, they will likely notice a new charge.

A 2-mill levy for road repairs, approved by Farms voters during the presidential election Nov. 3, was slated to start showing up on tax bills before the end of the year to begin raising money for road projects that will begin in spring and summer of 2021. About 56.39% of voters said yes to the special, five-year millage, while 43.61% said no.

“We’re grateful that it was approved,” City Manager Shane Reeside said. “Those funds are truly needed. We’re excited to see some major road rehabilitation starting next summer.”

Reeside said the city’s engineers were already preparing bid specifications so that they would be able to go out for bid after Jan. 1. They hope that by going out to bid early, they’ll be able to get better prices from contractors eager to start lining up projects for the upcoming construction season.

The millage, which runs through December 2024, increases the Farms tax rate from 14.95 mills to 16.95 mills. 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.

Reeside said the Farms City Council opted to put the road millage on the November ballot because that would mean the greatest number of residents would be likely to vote on this issue. He noted that the Farms is one of the few communities in the area to not have a dedicated special road millage until now.

“I think the administration and City Council deliberated at great lengths to even put a road proposal on the ballot, but we thought it was necessary to maintain our infrastructure and property values,” Reeside said.

Although the Farms has been setting aside funds every year for roadwork, officials said it’s no longer enough to stave off substantial deterioration. At the end of the 2020 road construction season, the city’s engineers said the Farms had 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.

At a September City Council meeting on Zoom, 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.”

The major project that will be undertaken by bond funds in 2021 is the restoration of Kerby Road from Kercheval to Mack avenues, Reeside said. Based on core samples taken from that stretch of Kerby, he said it will require more work than just a simple mill and fill.

“We’ll coordinate (the work) not to interfere with Kerby School operations,” Reeside said.

Ideally, he said they’d like to be done with the Kerby project by the start of the next school year.

“Kerby Road is one of the main thoroughfares in our community, and it’s looking really tired,” Reeside said.

Reeside said they’ll be maintaining traffic flow and making sure Kerby residents have access to their driveways while work is taking place.

However, Reeside acknowledged, “There will be times of inconvenience.”

The millage couldn’t come at a more critical time. Reeside said the city expects to see a reduction in Act 51 funds — money that comes to municipalities through the state gas tax — because gas tax revenue is down “as a result of people driving less” because so many are working from home during the pandemic.

And by having both the millage funds and normally budgeted road funds to work with, Reeside said they hope to get better bids from contractors because those contractors will now have larger projects to work on in the Farms.