Forum sheds light on road issues

Millages would help fix roadways

Negaunee Township Board Trustee Gary Wommer shows Treasurer Kathleen Carlson one of the roads slated for reconstruction if a proposed $3 million millage request is approved by residents in November. (Journal photo by Lisa Bowers)

NEGAUNEE — Negaunee Township roads don’t make the grade — in fact currently only 30 percent of the roads in the township are rated as being in “good” condition, but members of the local government would like to change that.

Township officials and engineers from UPEA Engineers and Architects held an open house Wednesday to present information about the Township Road Improvement Plan, which lays out a method of repairing, rebuilding and maintaining 30.4 miles of roads.

The goal of the plan is to have more than 70 percent of township rated as “good” by the end of 2019.

Negaunee Township Board Trustee Gary Wommer said the board will draft ballot language requesting renewal of a 1-mill assessment for general maintenance such as crack sealing, chip coating, fogging and pothole repair on roads that have been classified in “fair” or better condition.

A second millage request, not to exceed 1.55 mills, would pay for a 15-year, $3 million bond to rehabilitate about 14 miles of township roads that are now in failing condition.

“The 1 mill is what we’ve always had for maintaining our roads. And we had spent every nickel every year trying to maintain our roads,” Wommer said. “But we are getting snowed under here. We are trying to row our way across the lake, but we’ve got a hole in the boat. We’ve got to fix this.”

According to a UPEA list of roads to be repaired, 9.48 miles of roads would be slated for rehabilitation starting in the summer of 2018.

The areas include 1.11 miles on Airport Circle, .66 mile on Forest Drive, 1.36 miles on Heritage, 1.27 miles on Kivela Road/River Run, 1.91 miles on N. Basin Drive, 1.12 miles on North Road, 1.55 miles on S. Basin Drive and .5 mile on East Wilderness Road.

The remaining 3.68 miles of roadway will be chip-sealed or crack-filled, the list states.

Wommer said the roads will be repaired in an order based on condition, and not location.

“The very worst we have is right around the big Dead River Basin on both sides,” Wommer said. “But we are doing the worst first. We are not taking a locale.”

Wommer said residents now live year-round in areas like the Dead River Basin that were seasonal residences in the past.

“People had a bunch of little mom-and-pop camps, they would go there on the weekend. Kids would come in the summer, stuff like that,” Wommer said. “Now go up there — all of those are gone, there’s nice big homes up there and a lot of people going back and forth on these roads. So our roads are getting pounded up there, and we are going to try to take care of that problem.”

Wommer said if the millages pass, he expects the entire project to be completed in 2018.

“We can do the 14 miles in one summer and that will take care of that bonded money,” Wommer said. It’s about a $3 million chunk, and we are going to be using all that up on those 14 miles.”

Wommer said the millage request is in large part a response to a survey conducted among township residents in 2015.

“The No. 1 answer to ‘What would you change?’ was ‘Fix the roads’ — No. 1,” Wommer said. “It’s interesting to watch that stuff happen because we had 700 replies come back on that survey. And when you get that big of a representation, you better listen to it. It means something. You don’t just slough it off and say, ‘Well, that was a good survey.'”

Negaunee Township resident Chris Filizetti said he sees the proposed project as a positive for people living and working in the area.

“The road system that we have now, I haven’t seen any additional road work done as far as improvement,” Filizetti said. “We are falling behind on that.”

Filizetti said the overall cost of the project is something he is willing to accept when considering the cost of not paying to repair the roads.

“The cost of the project, the way I look at it, is just like the cost of my electricity, the cost of my water, the cost of my sewer. Everything is going up, I have accepted it as a fact of life,” Filizetti said. “Either it’s going to cost you up front in the road improvements, or it’s going to cost you long-term on the wear and tear on the car, because your suspension is going to hit hard, your tires, your rims. Even your system, as you get older you feel the bumps and the grinds of the road more, and it bothers you. You go into the doctor saying, ‘Why do I feel this pain here?’ and he says ‘What road do you drive down every day?'”

Language has to be approved by the board and submitted to the Marquette County Clerk’s Office by Aug. 15 for the millage requests to be placed on the November ballot.

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is