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Published: Tuesday, 3/23/2010

Bedford board seeks community input for possible road levy

BLADE STAFF

TEMPERANCE - Bedford Township property owners have been paying a tax since 2007 to support the salaries of extra sheriff's deputies to increase law enforcement efforts in the township.

Would residents be willing to increase their property taxes by $75 to $100 in a similar fashion to pay for roads, bridges, and culverts repairs and snow removal?

A township board committee that has been working with consultant Ralph Lange to assemble a long-term plan to address deteriorating roads and maintenance wants to get the feel from the community on putting a road millage tax on the August ballot.

Mr. Lange, who is the former manager of the Monroe County Road Commission, told the township board last week that a 1-mill tax issue would generate about $900,000 a year to fund township road projects and maintenance.

The committee, comprised of Supervisor Walt Wilburn and trustees Paul Francis and Larry O'Dell, is to meet this week to set up at least three town hall meetings to explain the proposal and get community feedback.

At last week's meeting, Mr. Lange said that about $11.4 million was spent on road projects in the township between 2004 to 2008.

However, the funding sources that were used to fund and leverage the projects have dried up because of Michigan's floundering economy, the township's road czar said.

Mr. Lange said new millage would allow the township to protect the money it has invested in road infrastructure and cut back on the costs of major maintenance.

"There are several choices and options. You can just do nothing and assign blame or you can come up with a plan. Bedford Township, to their credit, has decided to come with a plan to address the problem head-on in a meaningful way to prevent further deterioration," Mr. Lange said.

Of the $900,000 that would be raised annually, half would be devoted to year-round maintenance, including snow plowing the township's more than nine miles of subdivision roads.

The remaining $450,000 would be used to leverage money for federal and state grants for more elaborate projects and improvements.

Mr. Lange explained that an operational agreement would be established with the county road commission and would be modeled after the contract the township has with the sheriff's office to provide deputies at the Temperance substation. "There would be two people all year long with all the equipment and stuff they would need," he said.

The township would bear the costs of the salaries and benefits of two road commission workers.

Howard Penrod, manager of the road commission, said the cost of each employee would range from $60,000 to nearly $90,000 annually, depending on the worker's years of experience.

Also, the township would be responsible for constructing a garage and purchasing two dump trucks with plows.

A 1-mill issue would amount to an extra $100 a year in property taxes for the owner of a $200,000 home with a $100,000 taxable value.

Township officials said they plan to build the garage at the Bedford Public Schools bus facility on Douglas Road.

To get the tax issue on the August primary ballot, the board must approve it at one of the two April regular meetings before the May 4 election filing deadline.



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