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Waara: Houghton road quality is improving

HOUGHTON — Houghton’s roads are getting better.

The total miles of roads rated good or fair in the city has gone up by 22% since 2019, City Manager Eric Waara said during Wednesday’s City Council meeting. The news comes from this year’s Pavement Surface Evaluation and Rating (PASER) survey. The Western Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Region (WUPPDR), conducts the visual inspections of roads, which were last done in 2019 and 2015. Since 2019, the city has completed flood recovery work and major paving projects.

The ratings include about 35 miles in Houghton, and do not include trunklines.

Since 2019, good road mileage has increased by 40%, while fair decreased by 5%. Poor and very poor mileage also dropped, by 27% and 4%, respectively.

“I just wanted to share that because I know that we just finished a big paving project and spent a lot of money,” Waara said. “…It’s moving in the right direction.”

Waara also shared good news on the city’s 2021 paving project, which came in $45,000 under bid. The savings will be put toward paving next year.

Houghton will also receive funds through supplemental coronavirus relief funds to replace lost Act 51 revenue. The $83,000 in Small Urban money will be split between Houghton, Hancock and the Houghton County Road Commission.

The three bodies also split a semiannual allocation of just under $400,000 through a Small Urban Grant. The cycles alternate between the road commission getting the full amount and Hancock and Houghton splitting it. For Houghton’s next cycle in 2025, it is looking at a section of Bridge Street between South and Jacker avenues.

In other action, the council:

– Approved modifications to the language of the 45-year sewer agreement with Portage Township at its meeting Wednesday. The changes were requested by the office of general counsel at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, through which Portage Township received a Rural Development Loan to construct a new sewer system at Green Acres Road and U.S. 41. USDA requires the agreement between the city and township before work can be done on the new system.

The contract will allow 50,000 gallons per day of Portage Township sanitary sewage at the connection of the Green Acres/M-26 line at the Copper Country Mall. The point of entry will be metered, and its exact location will be determined by Houghton.

With the addition of the Green Acres/M-26 hookup, charges for excess flows have also changed. For the existing Hurontown, Dodgeville and Isle Royale II locations, the rate for amounts over 100,000 gallons per day will be 1.1 times Portage’s monthly rate. That is set at 78% of what Houghton charges its customers. Previously, the rate had escalated with each 25,000 gallons per day above 100,000.

If the Green Acres/M-26 sewage ever exceeds 50,000 gallons per day, it will pay the same penalty of 1.1 times the monthly rate.

The township must also pay the city $75,000 before any sewage is collected from the new location.

Houghton will also decide if a Public Act 425 agreement with Portage Township is necessary for any new commercial development to be connected to the Green Acres/M-26 sewer system.

– Approved posting signage to remove the left turn from Park Avenue onto M-26. Several accidents have happened at the intersection, said Police Chief John Donnelly. While other spots are more troublesome — the intersections with Calverly Avenue or Houghton Canal Road — this was a good candidate for immediate work because it is redundant, Donnelly said.

“We have a lot of discussions to be made over the next years about how we’re going to start controlling that because that is a dangerous highway,” he said.

– Approved a bid for $2,000 for a snowmobile formerly used by the police department for patrols of the snowmobile trail.

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