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Published: Thursday, 2/17/2005

Bill would give some Michigan townships road control options

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Two Monroe County townships are among several dozen statewide that could take over all or part of local road maintenance under a bill that passed a committee of the Michigan state Legislature yesterday.

But whether Bedford and Frenchtown townships will exercise that option should the bill become law remains to be seen.

House Bill 4197 allows townships with populations of at least 15,000 to sign contracts with their county road commissions to take over maintenance of all or specified parts of the county local road networks within township boundaries.

Townships exercising the option would have to collect a minimum road maintenance levy of at least one mill, specify their intended road maintenance budgets in the contract, and contribute at least 10 percent of the cost. The remaining cost would come from state funds allocated to the county road commission, with allocations to particular townships based on historical averages of county spending in those townships.

The bill passed the Michigan House of Representatives' Transportation Committee by a 17-0 vote Tuesday.

Previously, only townships with populations of 40,000 or more and located in counties with 500,000 or more residents could enter into such contracts. Only eight townships met those criteria, whereas 53 will qualify under the new standards.

Bill Anderson, legislative liaison for the Michigan Townships Association, said the bill was inspired by some townships' dissatisfaction with their county road commissions' spending patterns. Most of the trouble developed in counties with large cities where there was a perception that too much county money was being spent in those cities, he said.

Walt Wilburn, Bedford Township supervisor, said yesterday he was not familiar with the bill.

"We'd have to take a look at the details of it," he said, adding that while "it would be nice to have control" over township road maintenance, it would be helpful if the bill also provided more money.

Officials in Frenchtown Township did not return a telephone call yesterday seeking comment.

Mr. Anderson said no one expects every township to take over its local road repairs and maintenance, but it gives the option to those that feel shortchanged. Of the eight Michigan townships currently eligible to take that action, only one - Bloomfield Township in suburban Detroit - has done so.

A legislative analysis of the bill indicates that it would not affect state costs or revenues.

Contact David Patch at:

dpatch@theblade.com

or 419-724-6094.



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