Possible county-wide millage could help fund pothole fixesPublished 6:29pm Friday, April 1, 2011
Been dodging potholes lately?
With decreasing revenues and increased costs, the Berrien County Road Commission is struggling to be able to fill all of them. So the road commission and local municipality officials are in talks over a county-wide millage proposal to be possibly be placed on the August 2012 ballot.
Brian Berndt, the Berrien County Road Commission engineer/manager, said the millage request would be for a half-mill and would last for six years. It would generate $3.4 million each year to fund road maintenance and improvement projects.
Berndt said there is no official list of specific road projects that would be funded by the millage yet.
“But prior to taking it to voters all this will be developed,” he said.
The commission is seeking the millage due to a significant budget crunch. Road commissions are funded by a state gas tax of 19 cents per gallon and license fees.
“What’s going on in Michigan as the price of gas continues to go up, people are buying less fuel,” he said. “And as time marches on, less people are living here so less license plates are being purchased.”
Due to those developments, the Berrien County Road Commission has seen a 10 percent decrease in revenue over the last 10 years. Meanwhile, the price of materials and fuel have skyrocketed, Berndt said.
The county has 1,483 miles of roads and a recent study rated 200 of them in poor condition.
Berndt and the road commission are looking for public input on the issue.
“We will allow the voters to decide,” he said. “It’s their roads.”
A steering committee for the proposed millage will send out a proposed resolution next week to municipalities in the county and the Berrien County Board of Commissioners.
The commissioners will ultimately decide whether the proposal will be put on the ballot.
If passed, it would be the first county-wide road millage since one was introduced in the early 1960s to fund the construction of four major bridges, Berendt said.
Seventeen of Michigan’s 83 counties, including VanBuren, Allegan and St. Joseph, currently have road millages.