By Zachary Pena Staff Writer
DeWitt Township has allotted about $400,000 for road maintenance this year, and it still isn’t nearly enough.
The board of trustees adopted their 22nd capital improvement plan earlier this year. It outlines township projects costing over $15,000, and its first priority in recent years has been resolving maintenance of local road systems.
The DeWitt Township budget shows that $350,000, or 6.5 percent of funds, was adopted for road maintenance and repair. Other items on the budget include police and police equipment, 33.75 percent of funds, and community center services, one percent of funds.
The Clinton County Road Commission is adding about $50,000 to township road maintenance, bringing the total to almost $400,000 this year. However, DeWitt Township manager Rodney Taylor said this is not enough.
“We should be putting in $650,000 to make sure that preventative maintenance projects are fully utilized,” he said. “Even then, that doesn’t include making enhancements like bike lanes or turn lanes or other changes to traffic improvement.”
This year’s total budget for road maintenance is a big increase from the $175,000 budgeted in 2009. Although Taylor said roads have definitely improved since 2009, the overall quality is still very poor.
The “pacer” scale used by many states ranks roads on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the best it can be.
“In the township’s case, 60 percent of roads are at four or worse,” said Michael Weinstein of the Clinton County Road Commission.
However, resident Roy Hansen said it doesn’t take a rating scale to convey how much road repairs are needed.
“I’ve had to pay for too many vehicle repairs to count because of these roads,” Hansen said. “I’d be surprised if they’re really rated as high as four – I would have guessed one or two.”
Taylor said he doesn’t solely blame the state of Michigan, but he sees its representatives as the source of the problem.
“They’ve been unwilling to fix this,” he said. “They’re basically putting more and more burden on backs of local taxpayers.”
Without funding to motivate its representatives, DeWitt Township has not yet identified which roads need resurfacing, paving, or other improvements.
This year, DeWitt Township, Bath Township and the Clinton County Road Commission have partnered to create a road management asset plan which will provide an assessment of when and which roads should be taken more care of.
Taylor said he hopes to have the plan completed this summer. “Our priority right now is to continue and expand long term planning.”
“Aside from what our budget is supposed to cover, there’s a whole other grouping called ‘local roads’ which the township has decided to take preventative maintenance on or to do paving on them,” said Taylor. “For paving jobs, we tentatively have North Crest, Brook Rd, Chetwyn and Sherbrook.”
He said roads in need of general maintenance include Webb, Dill and Howe, and the Clinton County Road Commission doesn’t have the means to maintain them.
“The township tries to make up for the bulk of funding for those roads,” said Weinstein.
“According to our budget, it costs about $110,000 each mile to pave a standard road – that’s with no curb or gutter,” said Taylor. “With 56 miles of local roads that last about 15 years, the Township should be investing about $410,000 each year into repaving alone.”
Clinton County Road Commission estimates that subdivision road upkeep costs about $208,000 each mile.
“It’s becoming more acceptable – when I came on board the township basically looked at worst roads and paved those, but its not the most efficient way to utilize limited dollars,” said Taylor. “The idea is to extend the life of a road so you don’t have to pave them as often.”