Residents will likely have to ante up for street repairs
By Jim Newell
Village of Lake Orion council members have known the village’s streets are in dire need of repair for some time.
Now the council is in the process of developing a street repair and replacement program and determining which streets to repair first.
“Cass Street is completely gone, there’s nothing left of it,” said Council member John D. Ranville. “We’ve got a lot of work to do, yet.”
Lake Orion has 2.74 miles of roads designated as major streets and another 8.85 miles of local roads.
Hubbell, Roth & Clark, Inc., the village’s engineers, recommended that the village spend $750,000 a year on its street improvement program.
Village Manager Darwin McClary said he had crunched the numbers and believes that if the village invests $450,000 annually over a 20-year period on the street improvement program, it should be able to repair village roadways, but would have to adjust for inflation as the years pass.
The schedule of street improvements would address the worst streets first, and McClary recommends that council consider breaking the improvement plans into five-year increments.
The average expected duration of a street is approximately 20 years, so the goal would be for the village to reconstruct or resurface its streets on a 20-25-year cycle. “So it’s an ongoing, continuous cycle,” McClary said.
McClary also informed the council that the village has an obligation to maintain its streets and if it fails to properly do so, the village could be liable for damages or injuries that may occur to residents or their vehicles.
“At this point, before the administration can move forward we have to have some direction from council on how they want us to go forward,” McClary said. “We’re getting to a point where it’s becoming critical for some streets (to be repaired).”
“It all comes down to how we want to fund the street program,” McClary said.
The two possibilities the council could consider is a special assessment on the streets being repaired, or a tax levy on all village properties to fund the program.
McClary said he believes the council should consider special assessing the properties on the streets as they are repaired. “My opinion is that the special assessment route seems to be the fairest way to fund the street repair program.”
Homeowners would have taxes assessed on the basis of their roadway footage.
With a tax levy the village would have to make the rates high enough and plan over a longer time period to make sure it can adequately fund the street repair program.
The problem, McClary said, is that planning which streets would need repairs 20 years out, and how much those repairs would cost, isn’t feasible, hence a much higher tax levy would be necessary.
Another problem with a tax levy are that some village homeowners live on streets where one side of the street is village residents and the other Orion Twp. residents. Those streets are township streets, so with a levy, those village homeowners would have to pay for repairs to other streets but would not have their own streets repaired unless the township did the work.
Orion Twp. does not collect taxes for road repairs, so all township roads are special-assessed for repair work.
With a tax levy, a home with a higher property value would have higher road repair taxes than a home with a lower property value, even if the higher property value home had the same or less roadway footage.
McClary also recommended that the council hold public hearings to gauge how residents wish to pay for street repairs. “It’s important to get the input and buy-in from the property owners up front. Engage the citizens, listen to what they have to say and what they need.”
Time also is a crucial factor for the council in enacting the program.
“Council needs to have a program in place within the next year. We have a number of roads that need attention in the near future,” McClary said, citing Lapeer Street as an example. “That’s in horrible shape. Really what it comes down to is what the council feels most comfortable pursuing.”
The village budgeted $160,000 for major roads revenue and $55,000 for local streets based on its 2016 audit report.
The village receives its funding from Michigan Public Act 51, which designates a portion of the money from gas and weight taxes and vehicle registration fees to maintaining local roads.
However, the village could see an additional $100,000 in revenue from the increased gas tax that took effect in January, and the increases in the weight tax and vehicle registration fees – but that money would not come for a few years.
The village’s current fund balance for major streets is $249, 000, while the local roads fund balance is $137,000.
“We have no money in the general fund that could be used for streets,” McClary said.
Edward Zmich from Hubbell, Roth & Clark Inc. (HRC) presented the village with its Roadway Assessment Management Plan (AMP) on Oct. 24 at the council meeting.
HRC developed this AMP, which included a Pavement Condition Survey of all village owned roads, to provide a framework for future projects within the village. A Pavement Condition Survey rates roads, estimates costs and funding, predicts future conditions, sets priorities and hears recommendations.
The assessment stated that 88 percent of the village roads were rated 1-6 on a ten-point scale, a one being the lowest score, with a 4.1 average rating for all village-owned roads.
Some of the worst roads in the village were Cass Street, west of Perry Street, which earned a rating of 1, and Lapeer Street, north of Flint Street, which earned a rating of 2, the most common village road rating