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Keweenaw County seeks renewal, not added millage

Graham Jaehnig/Daily Mining Gazette A five-year County Road millage is set to expire this year, and renewal will appear on the upcoming ballot.

MOHAWK — Keweenaw County is requesting a renewal on the five-year, two-mil road millage, which is set to expire this year. However, the ballot language has caused some confusion to some in the county.

County Road Commission Manager and Engineer Gregg Patrick said wording confusion may have be partially the result of the language having to include Hedlee Amendment content.

“It mixes up the message,” said Patrick. “The Road Commission already had some people questioning him: ‘Is this a renewal or is this a new millage?'”

It is just a request for a five-year renewal of the five-year county road millage, said Patrick, not a new millage or a millage added to an existing one.

“We just want to make it clear that it is a renewal for the millage we’ve had for the past five years,” he said, “and we also want to point out the amount of work we’ve don in the past five years.”

Patrick said the Road Commission was able to achieve a great amount of roadwork with the millage, because, in addition to the millage revenue, the Road Commission elected to contribute matches to the funding on the projects completed.

“We did the preliminary work,” Patrick explained,” all the culverts, some of the crushing and shaping, adding the gravel, the materials — everything, we paid for.”

The bottom line is, he said, over the past five years, the Road Commission has completed 11.15 miles of road for $1.484 million of millage funds, and another $409,000 of Road Commission funds for a total of $1.9 million.

“None of these projects would have been done without that millage” said Patrick. “That’s 11 miles of road completed that never would have gotten done. It was a hole in our budget that needed to be filled.”

The cost of road maintenance and repair is astronomical per mile and can vary, depending on what the road needs.

“There’s overlays (pavement), there’s crushingor shaping, they all vary in costs, and of course the thickness you put down.”

Patrick said the Road Commission has not been able to afford addressing the county’s gravel road sections. After 10-20 years, he said, gravel gets plowed off, grading needs to be done.

The last payment the county received from the Michigan Transportation Fund was down 32 percent less than it was for the same period last year.

“We’re hoping that that was the complete month of April, with the first lock-down month,” said Patrick. “Things started tapering up after that, so we’re hoping that the funding levels will increase as well.”

Patrick said going forward the next five years, the Road Commission hopes to address some of the county’s primary roads.

“Tamarack Water Works Road,” he said,” that’s a primary road that goes through Allouez, up into the gravel road stretch.”

That is what the Road Commission would like to do with if the renewal is approved. The county has not had the revenue to maintain the Cliff, or Brockway Mountain drives.

“Obviously, we’d like to do Cliff Drive and Brockway,” Patrick said, “but without people living on those year-round, then closing them in the winter, it’s a little harder to put that kind of money into them right away, until you can catch up on some of these other ones.”

Some of the local municipal streets that did not get addressed with the first round of millage also need repairs.

“That’s what we’d like to do with the second go-around of this millage,” Patrick explained, “and still address some of the streets. We did a lot of the local streets, but we’d like to address some of the county primaries.There’s lots more work to be done.”

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