Road commission director addresses concerns from Niles Twp. residents

Published 9:30 am Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The poor condition of roads dominated discussion at Monday’s regular meeting of the Niles Charter Township Board of Trustees, which included a guest appearance by Berrien County Road Commission Director Louis Csokasy.

The majority of the approximately 20 people in attendance were residents who live on Bond Street between U.S. 12 and Fort Street, a segment of road that was at one time classified as failing by the county road commission — the organization responsible for maintaining Niles township roads.

Csokasy’s appearance comes just a couple weeks after the road commission board voted to delay an unpopular plan to turn approximately 50 miles worth of “failing” roads into gravel roads. About five miles of those roads are in Niles Township.

Csokasy explained that the commission wants to work with individual municipalities over the next six months to come up with an alternative plan, since so many residents throughout the county are opposed to seeing their hard-surface roads turned to gravel.

The root of the problem, Csokasy said, is that the road commission doesn’t have enough money to fix roads the way people want them to be fixed. That’s because the commission is funded by the state’s gasoline tax, which, he said, hasn’t been raised since 1997, even as costs have increased and vehicles have become more fuel efficient.

“That money we receive continues to go down every year,” he said.

Csokasy singled out two problem areas in Niles Township as being Bond Street and the Mission Hills subdivision off of Niles-Buchanan Road.

When a resident asked Csokasy about what is being done to Bond Street, he said the road commission would put paver patch over the worst section of the road.

Csokasy then said, in his opinion, Bond Street is past its useable life and needs to be grinded down, graveled, and later turned into a hard surface road by means of double chip seal.

“That’s what we ought to do,” he said, adding that he couldn’t guarantee the funding would be available next year to chip and seal Bond Street.

“What I can guarantee is that I can revert it to a gravel road. That’s all the resources I have.”

Supervisor Jim Stover reminded Niles Township residents that they can take ownership over the problem by voting in favor of a special assessment Aug. 4. The up to $65 per parcel assessment would generate around $430,000 a year for road improvements in Niles Township over the next 10 years. All the money, Stover said, would stay in the township and the township would get to decide how it is used.

Stover also asked anyone that wants to be part of a special Bond Street road committee to contact the township hall at (269) 684-0870.

Also Monday:

• Board member Chris Vella was re-appointed to serve as representative on the Southwestern Michigan Community Ambulance Service board.

• The board approved the hiring of a single part time employee to do an inventory of the condition of all the sidewalks in the township at $10 an hour.

• The board authorized the code enforcement officer to move forward with a demolition order for a blight property at 2634 S. 13th St.