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Homeowners left to pick up the tab if they want public roads repaved in township neighborhoods

Posted at 7:04 PM, Feb 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-23 19:06:11-05

BRIGHTON TWP. (WXYZ)  — In counties across Michigan, there are public roads in subdivisions that are 30 to over 40 years old with no plan to repave them unless 51% of homeowners in each neighborhood agree to pay the construction costs.

"It's just awful," said Jenny McDaniel of Brighton Township. She has a neighbor who has sprained his ankle on potholes in their neighborhood.

"Something has to be done," McDaniel said. "It's getting worse and worse."

Nine miles away from McDaniel and her family are the Tiemanns. They share the same headache.

"The front of our house where all the water is, it's almost down to the dirt," Pat Tiemann told 7 Action News.

Tiemann's husband said a now retired manager for the road commission once told him that the road in front of their home would turn to gravel before the commissions would pay for repaving.

The Livingston County Road Commission does receive about $3,000 to $5,000 a year for maintenance on township roads in subdivisions, but that's only enough to cover plowing and putting cold patch in the potholes.

"We just don't have the revenue to apply to a subdivision street," said Steve Wasylk, Managing Director for the Livingston County Road Commission. Wasylk said they have to put their dollars on roads that have a high traffic volume.

Not all property owners in township subdivisions across Michigan may be aware that if they want the roads repaved, they'll have to work with their local township to become a "Special Assessment District."

Township officials will prepare a petition that someone from the neighborhood will have to get at least 51% of property owners in their neighborhoods to sign and agree to be assessed the construction costs.

If 51% of neighbors want to pay the special assessment, then the road commission will work on estimates so property owners will know what it will cost them over a period of eight to ten years.

"There will be no free riders," one township official said. If 51% of property owners want it, everyone will have to pay for it.

Homeowners in township neighborhoods with large lots will have higher assessments because the cost will be spread out over fewer people.

"When it comes to roads, Michigan has faced a perfect storm. Funding has declined while maintenance costs have risen. This has resulted in underinvestment in our road system," the Washtenaw County Road Commission (WCRC) writes on their website.

The funding county road commissions do get is from gas taxes and vehicle registration fees.

"The lack of adequate revenue has created an enormous debt of needed road repairs," the WCRC writes. "Due to these funding constraints, WCRC has elected to spend its limited resources on primary roadways and suspend its preventative maintenance and rehabilitation activities on subdivision roads."