EGR offers plan to improve street, sidewalk safety on May 5 ballot

When East Grand Rapids voters go to the polls in May, they will be given the option to approve a 10-year dedicated street and sidewalk millage of up to 2.0 mills.   

Following a Citizen Task Force recommendation that the city of East Grand Rapids seek a 10-year, 2.0 mill dedicated street and sidewalk millage, East Grand Rapids City Commissioners voted unanimously Monday night in favor of putting the millage request on the May 5 ballot, tying it to the state's proposal to raise Michigan sales tax. 

Since this proposal is tied to the state's proposal to raise Michigan sales tax, if the two proposals pass, the city will collect 1.23 mill and 2.0 mills if it fails. If approved, the state proposal would provide less than 1.0 mill of additional revenue. 

Basically, if a 2.0 dedicated street millage passes in May, it will generate approximately $1,170,000 annually for improvements, with an additional $125,000 in road and sidewalk funding depending on the approval of the state proposal.

"This decline would affect safety and aesthetics," said East Grand Rapids Mayor Anna Seidbold in a press release following the Monday night commission meeting. "Poor road conditions can lead to depressed home values, unsafe driving conditions and damage to other city resources and infrastructure. If we don't act now, we will only get further behind on these much-needed repairs." 

Seidbold says it's the safety and navigability of not only the roads, but also the sidewalks that hang in the balance: "The very first thing people say about East Grand Rapids is that we're a walking community, and without being able to keep our sidewalks in walking condition, we don't want there to be safety hazards for the many, many people using our sidewalks."

In a study conducted by the Grand Valley Metro Council, the streets in East Grand Rapids received an average rating of "fair" on the council's Pavement Surface Evaluation and Rating scale in 2013, and conditions have only worsened after last year's winter and continue to deteriorate currently. At current funding levels, it would take 70 years to resurface all of the local roads in East Grand Rapids.

East Grand Rapids commissioners say road funding from the state of Michigan has not accounted for the rising costs of asphalt, concrete, salt and other construction expenses, projecting that if the imbalance continues, 95 percent of the city streets will be rated in poor condition – an average rating of 2.3 on the Grand Valley Metro Council's PASER scale – by 2025. 

"I think one of the most important things is that we had a citizens group look at this and anyone was allowed to join it," Seibold says. "We gave them facts and figures, they asked for more and we gave them more facts and figures, but the overwhelming majority of the citizens group was, after the analysis, that we needed to go out for these 2 mills. So, it was a group of citizens that recommended this and it's nice to have that back up."

Seibold says road conditions rank among the top concerns she hears from East Grand Rapids voters, adding that over the next four months, the city commission with "work to ensure all residents have the details they need to make an informed decision in the ballot box." 

"I'm hoping that it will (pass)," she says. "I don't have any statistics, I don't know, we'll see but that's the great thing is that the voters get to decide. I just know that I get many, many calls and concerns and complaints from people wanting our roads to be in better conditions and as mayor, it's my job to look at how we can meet those needs. With our current funding, we can't, and we have to be realistic about that." 

Click here for more information on the proposal or links to supporting documents such as the citizens group findings, budget breakdown and millage proposal fact sheet.

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
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