By Rachel Jackson
Bath-DeWitt Connection staff writer
To Bath Township residents, the melting snow caused by warmer temperatures will be welcomed after a harsh winter, but to Bath roads, it will receive less of a homecoming.
“It’s pothole season,” Clinton County Road Commission Managing Director Joe Pulver said. “When there’s moisture under the surface, the ground really starts to move around. It’s a lot of disrepair.”
Roads all over Michigan will crack and crumble as a result of temperature fluctuations, forcing road commissions to make hasty repairs in the coming weeks to ensure drivers’ safety.
Declining road conditions have plagued the state for years but have become more of an issue recently during the statewide recession, during which state-allocated funds to localities have dropped precipitously. The consequence is inflated repair costs with little buffer provided from state revenue.
“Products cost more, trucking costs more, everything costs more,” Pulver said. “Everybody is scrambling to make up the difference.”
Typically, Pulver said, road commissions receive revenue from the state through gas and fuel taxes, but the tax is a flat rate and has not changed in over a decade, despite fuel prices skyrocketing in recent years. The consequence is fixed revenue for road repairs despite some roads requiring far more attention.
Bath Charter Township Superintendent Troy Feltman voiced similar concerns about the lack of funds for road repair, a recurring topic at a township board meeting on Feb. 7.
“My personal belief is that the road system is the responsibility of the state,” Feltman said. “However, I don’t have any faith that the state will be able to get the political will to address this issue in any reasonable time frame.”
Instead, the burden falls on the township. To keep township roads at a merely average quality, Feltman said it would take about $500,000 per year; however, in the four years that Feltman has been superintendent, the road budget has remained stagnant at $120,000.
Feltman said the realistic solution is to raise a dedicated millage in the township solely for the purpose of making repairs. The road commission operates a 1 to 10 ranking scale for roads within the county, 10 being recently addressed and 1 being in dire need of repair, and Feltman said many of the roads within Bath Township have consistently been ranked as a five.
But rising production prices have made it especially difficult to procure funds when public officials keep tight wallets.
“We’re misers about our spending,” Pulver said. “We don’t replace people or equipment, but eventually everything gets old. We won’t be able to do what we need to do.
“Legislators need to solve the problem—it’s a frustrating dilemma that we’re in,” Pulver said.