Chocolay board approves request for road work

Panel eyes November ballot for 1.75 mills for 15 years


HARVEY — The Chocolay Township Board Monday decided to submit ballot language to the Marquette County and state of Michigan election authorities seeking to place a road millage request on the November township ballot.

Voters would be asked to approve a new property tax levy of up to 1.75 mills for up to 15 years, which would be used for the repair and maintenance of township public roads.

The board passed the millage motion by a 6-1 vote, with Trustee Donald Rhein casting the negative vote.

Trustee David Lynch said he likes the 15-year plan in that it’s “better thought out” than trying to accomplish the work in five-year time periods.

Lynch pointed out roads have been a big concern in the township.

David Lynch

“Roads are the most repeated thing I hear from the residents of Chocolay Township,” Lynch said.

A mill is $1 for every $1,000 of state equalized property value.

According to Township Manager Steve Lawry, a rate of 1.75 mills would generate about $362,000 the first year.

“I think that will be enough to address the roads,” Lawry said.

In a July 5 memo addressed to the township board, Lawry said from 2007 until 2012, the township had a voted-in dedicated road millage in place in addition to its authorized operating millage. When the question was put on the ballot, the Marquette County Road Commission developed a 17-year plan for resurfacing paved township streets.

The plan proposed township funding of 50 percent and road commission funding of 50 percent for total expenditures of $450,000 per year, and involved the paving of urban areas first and rural areas in subsequent years. It also basically proposed overlaying the existing pavements with additional asphalt, but no major reconstruction.

The ballot question put before the voters was for a five-year millage beginning at 1.7 mills, and completion of the entire program would have required renewal of the levy every five years.

However, during the time the township collected the millage, the road commission was unable to provide any matching dollars, although the programmed streets were resurfaced using only the township’s millage since the work was accomplished for much less than the road commission estimates.

When the time came to request the first renewal of the millage, the township also was seeking a similar millage to fund the new fire station. The board decided to delay a vote on the millage renewal and seek approval only of the fire station levy. The construction debt of the fire station will be paid off this fiscal year, and the millage dedicated for it will expire.

Lawry also noted in his memo that the township’s Capital Improvement Fund budget approved for this year contains at least $5,000 to employ an engineering firm to develop a cost estimate to determine the approximate total amount needed annually to bring the streets up to acceptable standards and maintain them.

This likely would be accomplished through the sale of bonds, which would be paid off through the collection of the special millage.

Lawry said about 31.4 miles of paved township roads need to be addressed, 10 miles of gravel surfaced roads might need upgrades and more than 12 miles of resurfaced roads need regular maintenance to protect the resurfacing already applied.

Trustee Mark Maki questioned Monday whether the township could continue with the 12 years remaining on the original 17-year millage.

“That whole plan was based on the township only paying 50 percent to begin with, and the road commission 50 percent, when they developed that plan,” Lawry said. “They also based it on one solution only: Pave over what’s there.”

He said that would be a waste of funds and possibly create hazardous situations. The road commission also didn’t consider the existing condition of roads and prioritized their repair on the density of development, with the outlying roads finished last.

Language for November ballot questions is due in the Marquette County Clerk’s Office no later than Aug. 15.

There will be a special public meeting on the millage issue later this year.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is