FRUITLAND TWP. – Most Murray Road residents agree that the over one mile of paved road badly needs resurfacing, but they are split on whether they should share in the costs of the estimated $550,000 project.
Several residents spoke at a Feb. 6 public hearing before the Fruitland Township board, and this Monday (Feb. 18) the board is expected to take action to petition the affected residents for a special assessment. The township board meeting will start at 5 p.m., and will be held in the township hall.
The township is looking at a special assessment of the property owners along the road to fill a funding gap for the work which they hope to start following Labor Day when the tourism season winds down.
Residences along Murray Road, which dead ends on the south side of the White Lake Channel, is populated mostly by seasonal residents. At the end of the road, however, is one of this area’s historical landmarks, the township-owned White River Light Station and Maritime Museum.
If a special assessment is approved by more than half of the affected residents, an estimated assessment of $700 per lot will be charged for a total of about $110,000, or 20 percent of the project’s estimated price tag.
If residents approved the special assessment, it would be the first time that would be used to help fund a road project in Fruitland Township.
The funding gap results from Muskegon County Road Commission’s (MCRC) unwillingness to match Fruitland Township’s 60 percent funding with 40 percent, or for the Murray Road project, $220,000. The township is offering to pay its $330,000.
Ken Hulka, MCRC managing director, who was at the public hearing, said the county is unwilling to pay the 40 percent match because Murray Road does not meet the county’s asset management profile. The county will fund 20 percent of the project.
The past four years the township and county have shared in paving 44 miles of roads in the township using $980,000 in township for its 60 percent share. Those roads all met the asset management profile.
Township Supervisor Sam St. Amour said Murray Road doesn’t meet the township’s asset management profile, however, the township still plans to fund its 60 percent with general fund monies.
Hulka said the county’s funds for road work is being stretched because of dwindling state funding.
St. Amour explained that asset management is a methodology used to repair roads when the government unit doesn’t have enough money to repair all roads.
A Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) was formed to explore the possible special assessment funding.
The CAC reported at the public hearing that it has obtained email addresses for 155 of the 169 parcel owners along Murray Road and has been in contact with nearly all the parcel owners.
Three newsletters were emailed to the parcel owners, providing information on the project.
Also, a non-binding “straw vote” was taken online, and of the 145 parcel owners who took part, 95 or 65 percent supported the special assessment.
It was reported the two main themes of those who oppose the special assessment district for the project is the township and county should be responsible for funding the project like they have the other road paving projects in the township, and they are concerned about potential higher speeds of vehicles if the road surface is improved.
St. Amour said the township received 28 emails on the special assessment district issue, and 20 showed support while the other eight were in opposition.
If the township does vote to continue the special assessment process, petitions will be mailed to the 169 parcel owners. Completed petitions must be notarized and returned to the township. Any petitions not returned will be considered no votes.
The expense of the Murray Road project results from costs associated with upgrading the road base, widening the road in some areas, replacing curbing and using a higher grade of asphalt.