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Published: Monday, 8/18/2014

Bedford board looks at parcel to fund roads

BY CARL RYAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Francis Francis
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TEMPERANCE — The Bedford Township Board has taken the first step toward possibly assessing property owners $75 per parcel annually for five years to raise funds for road improvements.

At its regular meeting last week, the board adopted a resolution starting the process to explore the feasibility of establishing a townshipwide special assessment district to collect the funds from each property owner.

Speaking on behalf of the township road committee, Treasurer Paul Francis emphasized the resolution did not set in motion anything that could not be stopped. Michigan’s funding formula for roads excludes townships, whose roads are under the control of county road commissions, he said, and Bedford is on its own regarding road repaving, because there is insufficient political will in the Michigan Legislature for change.

The assessment, if the board decided to adopt it, would generate an annual $925,000 dedicated to Bedford’‍s roads.

“Lansing will never increase money that comes to Bedford by $900,000 per year,” he said, adding that the assessment money “would stay in the township and be administered by the board.”

Moreover, Mr. Francis continued, this dedicated revenue would free up general-fund money for use on crumbling subdivision streets, another perennial source of complaints.

The board has the authority to establish the special assessment district on its own, but will hold two town hall meetings to solicit residents’ input as well as two statutory, formal public hearings. The town hall meetings are tentatively scheduled for Sept. 9 and Oct. 9 in the Bedford Junior High School cafeteria.

The first public hearing is slated for Sept. 23 at the same location, and the second on Oct. 21 at the regular board meeting, when the board could decide to proceed and vote, depending on the public feedback.

A notice of the meetings and their purpose will be mailed to all township addresses.

The vote was 6-1, with Trustee Nancy Tienvieri dissenting. Clerk Trudy Hershberger and Trustee Paul Pirrone emphasized they cast yes votes so they could hear what the public wants. Ms. Tienvieri noted that the township had a $3 million fund balance and should spend down that money before seeking more.

Supervisor Greg Stewart said he too was hesitant about voting yes, but believed the town hall meetings would give the board “a feel for what is feasible.”

He said the board should take take a stand on improving roads and assume some responsibility for them. The town hall meetings would allow members to present their ideas and listen to the public.

In 2011, voters turned down a 10-year, 1-mill levy for roads, objecting to the length of the millage and the money from the tax would be paid to the Monroe County Road Commission.

With a special assessment in place, road commission involvement would be limited to soliciting bids and reviewing plans from the township’s engineer, Mr. Francis said. The agency would not get its usual 10 percent cut of a project’‍s cost.

Contact Carl Ryan at: carlryan@theblade.com or 419-724-6095.



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