At a meeting Monday night, the Marquette County Road Commission is expected to discuss a recommendation from the Marquette County Board which was passed last week.
The county board -acting on the request of opponents of the Eagle Mine and a $20.8 million project to widen, pave and in some cases, rebuild roughly 11 miles of Marquette County Road 510 and the Triple A Road- voted to recommend the road agency slow down its decision-making process to allow more time for public comment.
We think the road commission should simultaneously heed and disregard the county board's recommendation. By that we mean the road commission should allow continued public comment on the issue, but not slow down the process of forward consideration of the project.
The opponents -whose clear intentions are to delay and derail plans for the road project and the mine- claim that despite at least three meeting opportunities to comment previously and others in the future -including two public comment periods at Monday's road commission meeting- the process has been moving too fast for the public to absorb, there hasn't been enough time to register thoughtful comment and meetings have been held in several locations making it confusing for the public to follow.
The plans for the road construction were first revealed at a public meeting Sept. 26.
Afterward, the road commission provided written responses to public questions from the Sept. 26 meeting at an Oct. 15 meeting in Ishpeming, along with taking additional public comment.
On Oct. 21, the road commission took more public comment before engineer-manager James Iwanicki presented a revised alignment plan, which was unanimously approved. Another public comment period followed at the end of the meeting. Granted, there wasn't much time then to consider the plan and its changes. But what about since then? What about today? Nothing stops a concerned citizen from writing to the road commission right now or tomorrow or commenting at the next meeting.
The revised plan approved incorporated several ideas received from public comments. But opponents Tuesday said they wanted more concessions, more delays and the engineers to go "back to the drawing board."
Iwanicki said the road commission would hold a future public meeting when engineering plans using the Oct. 21 approved alignment were 70 percent complete.
Iwanicki said Tuesday the road commission has now scheduled that public information meeting for 7 p.m. Dec. 4 in Powell Township. The new plans will be made available to the public for review after 3 p.m. Nov. 15. The road commission would then consider whether to approve the plans at its Dec. 16 meeting in Ishpeming, where still more public comment opportunity would be provided.
The county board's recommendation approved Tuesday urges the road commission to instead use the Dec. 4 meeting to take public comment on the plan presented Oct. 21. We think this is excessive and unnecessary. We also think it was politically easy for the county board to seem supportive of the opponents by voting for its recommendation, while casting the true decision back to the road commission.
There is no limiting provision in place preventing the public from commenting at the Dec, 4 meeting on the previous plans. There is no need to specifically designate the meeting for that purpose.
While we think the road commission should make a good effort to provide public comment and be responsive to it -which it has demonstrated- it should not be unnecessarily detained in its actions by those intentionally employing delaying tactics to achieve a goal beyond their stated purpose.