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Published: Tuesday, 4/13/2010

Skeptics speak at first session on Bedford Township repair plan

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

TEMPERANCE - A proposal to fund road improvements and maintenance in Bedford Township with a new property tax levy was greeted with skepticism last week during the first of five town hall meetings.

Township officials and Ralph Lange, the township's consultant on road issues, clashed with some residents during the nearly two-hour meeting that began with an outline of the problems facing the township in trying to obtain state and federal money for road projects.

The township contracted with Mr. Lange to do a study of the roads, bridges, and culverts in the township, including the money that was spent on the infrastructure in the past and how to preserve the investment the township has made in the system.

Dennis Jenkins, director of planning, told the audience of about 20 people that the revenue sources that were used to pay and leverage federal and state grants for the projects have dried up and the possibility of future revenue streams is grim.

Mr. Lange, who resigned as manager of the Monroe County Road Commission in 2008, came up with a 10 to 20-year master plan that recommends putting a 1-mill tax issue on the ballot that would generate $900,000 annually for road and culvert projects and maintenance.

"What we are going to try to do is preserve what we have the best we can until something better comes along," said Trustee Larry O'Dell, who is a member of the road committee. "The system is broken and it has been broken for a number of years."

If voters approve the millage, half of the property taxes, or about $450,000, will be spent for snow plowing and ice control and preventative maintenance to preserve roads such as applying crack sealant, including the nearly 80 miles of subdivision and dead-end streets.

The remaining money would be dedicated to major improvement projects.

The township board has not acted to put the millage on a future ballot and is using the town hall meetings to gauge public support for a tax issue to fund road maintenance and projects.

"The real thing here is to get input from the community to give us some ideas and direction that we didn't think of," Supervisor Walt Wilburn said. "Tell us what you think because that is what these meetings are for."

Harry Drzierzawski criticized the program in the master plan that calls for using millage funds to apply crack seal on streets.

Jim Mayer received applause from the audience after he accused township officials of failing to provide representation for its constituents at Monroe County Road Commission meetings.

"If we vote for this millage what is there to assure us that the Monroe County Road Commission won't dump on us and say we have enough money," Mr. Mayer said.

However, Mr. Wilburn shot back that Mr. Mayer was wrong and that he has attended road commission meetings, including discussions to address federal grants for township projects.

"I disagree with you," Mr. Wilburn said. "We have paved 23 1/2 miles of road since 2005. We got over $11.5 million in money that we brought into the township and over $9 million in federal aid grants."

Mr. Lange added that Bedford Township was the recipient of the most federal stimulus money of any other township in the county.

Mike Malone, of Greenhills subdivision, blasted township officials for what he called inferior work the road commission did in repairing the streets and culvert in his neighborhood that were paid by its residents through a special assessment district.

Under the plan presented, the township will use the millage to buy two trucks that would be used by two workers employed by the road commission.

The next town hall meeting will be 10 a.m. April 17 at the Bedford Branch Library, 575 Jackman Rd. The others - 1:30 p.m April 23, 10 a.m. May 8, and 6:30 p.m. May 20 - will be at the Bedford Township Hall, 8100 Jackman Rd.



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