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Published: Wednesday, 1/11/2006

Monroe County: Commission supporters look for road millage

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

MONROE - Supporters of the Monroe County Road Commission are taking their road show on the road in an attempt to gin up support for a countywide road millage that the agency is considering placing before voters later this year.

At the Bedford Township Board meeting last week, Paul Livernois, the local government liaison for the natural gas utility Aquila, told board members that the state gasoline tax does not provide enough money to improve local roads.

"Many people think that their property taxes help pay for roads, and that's not the case," he said as he went through a presentation that showed how state gasoline tax dollars are divvied up.

Mr. Livernois, who said he was recruited by the Road Commission to be a member of an ad-hoc supporters group called the Better Roads Committee, argued that improving the county's roads, bridges, and culverts, is going to take time and money.

"The quickest way is a millage," Mr. Livernois said.

A 1-mill countywide property tax would levy about $7 million a year, with the Road Commission getting about $5.6 million of that and the remainder going to the City of Monroe, which maintains its own road network.

Likewise, a 2-mill levy would generate double the amount, and would cost the owner of a home with a state equalized value of $150,000 about $150 per year.

"They're improving at the Road Commission," Mr. Livernois told the township board.

"Any money that would ever be generated from [a road] tax, it would be stipulated that 100 percent of the money would go to roads - not to wages, not to trucks, but on the roads," Mr. Livernois said.

However, Mr. Livernois and his assistant for the evening, former Bedford Township clerk and current Road Commission employee Nancy Tienvieri, came under stiff questioning from board members who expressed concern that a countywide tax would mean Bedford would end up subsidizing other areas of the county.

"We understand that Bedford, Frenchtown [Charter], and Monroe Charter do not want to be 'donor' townships," Mrs. Tienvieri said.

"We'd be willing to relent on that, to say that each township would get back what it contributes, if there is a millage."

The road commission has been openly discussing placing a countywide road millage on the ballot for more than a year as the agency's struggle for respectability has run up against the roadblock of an anemic state economy.

"There's a chronic need for more funding. I don't think that's a shock or surprise," said Road Commission Managing Director Ralph Lange.

"The people want better roads, and the Road Commission can do the work, provide high quality service. But the reason that we can't meet the demand is not because we can't do the work anymore; it's because there's a lack of money."

Both Mr. Lange and Mr. Livernois said the Better Roads Committee will be visiting community groups and local governments to "educate" people on the problems that the road commission faces.

But Mr. Lange said that it will ultimately be up to road commission employees to prove to voters that voters can trust them again.

"It's not our job to sell this; it's our job to convince [voters] that we're going to spend the money efficiently and correctly," Mr. Lange said.



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