WCRC seeks August 2016 ballot initiative to fund 4 years of road repairs – but does not include Bemis Road Bridge
On Tuesday, March 1, the Washtenaw County Road Commission (WCRC) unanimously approved a resolution in support of a county-wide road funding ballot initiative. The resolution requests that the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners place a four-year, 0.5-mill road millage before the voters during the August 2, 2016 primary. WCRC estimates that the initiative would improve nearly 200 miles of county roads over the duration of the millage. Absent from the list of improvements, however, is Bemis Road, which has been closed to through traffic for months.
The WCRC closed the Bemis Road bridge in December 2015 because of extensive structural deterioration. The bridge, which crosses a tributary of the Saline River, is located on the township line between Ernst Road and Schneider Road in Section 3 of Bridgewater Township and Section 34 of Freedom Township. At the last Freedom Township board meeting it was announced that the culvert will have to be replaced and the current estimate is $300,000. Kelly Jones, WCRC senior project manager in charge of the Bemis Road Bridge repair, confirms that no replacement or repair has been scheduled.
Residents who live on Bemis Road have been invited to a public meeting to discuss the Bemis Road closure on Tuesday April 19th at 7:30pm at the Freedom Town Hall. The two township boards as well as the WCRC are expected to have representatives at the meeting.
While the WCRC is currently working with townships to determine which projects are high priorities and will adjust their road improvement plans as appropriate, the initial plan does include improvements in all four townships in the Mirror’s coverage area. Although Bemis Road is not included, in Bridgewater Township, Austin Road between Clinton Road and the Saline Township line, which includes the bridge over the Schasser Lake Drain – currently down to one-lane, and all of Ernst Road are scheduled for improvements in 2018. In Freedom Township, Ernst Road up from Bridgwater to Bethel Church Road is scheduled for improvements in 2018 and from Bethel Church Road to Reno Road in 2019. In Manchester Township, Sharon Hollow Road between Herman and Ely Roads is scheduled for improvement in 2019. Three stretches of road in Sharon Township are scheduled for improvement: Grass Lake Road from M-52 past Hashley Road in 2018, Sylvan Road from Grass Lake Road north into Sylvan Township in 2019 and Grass Lake Road from Sylvan Road to Sharon Hollow Road in 2020.
“This four-year road millage would essentially extend the successful P.A. 283 program that has been approved the past two years. We are raising the money locally and it will be used locally. Just like P.A. 283, residents will see road improvements the same year that the millage is levied,” said Roy Townsend, Managing Director at the Washtenaw County Road Commission.
The Road Commission expects that the millage would raise $7.2 million per year, with approximately $3.3 million going to the county road system to be distributed as equitably as is reasonable across the County’s twenty townships over the duration of the millage. Cities and villages will receive an estimated $2.5 million, with specific allocations based on the amount raised within a city/village’s borders.
The millage is for the same amount that has been levied county- wide via P.A. 283 in 2015 and 2016. A 0.5 millage costs homeowners $50 per $100,000 in taxable value. The average Washtenaw County homeowner will pay $35 per year. The millage would not cause an increase in Washtenaw County homeowners’ tax bills as compared to the previous two years.