Wednesday morning (2/13/13) I was the only person in the audience for the Safety Path review study session. That was disappointing to me. What I can report is that the Board voted to proceed with two projects that already have the initial engineering process completed. Next step I suppose is going to the county and MDOT for further review and permits to do the work in the road right-of-ways???
Those 2 projects are:
- Square Lake Rd.... north side / east of Opdyke. It will continue an existing sidewalk from the west that currently ends at the I-75 connector entrance. The new path will continue to go west on Square Lake Rd. to Opdyke Rd. so the residents may connect to existing sidewalks going north and south on Opdyke Rd. The challenge of this proposed extension will be getting safely across the intersection of Square Lake and I-75 entrance/exit ramps. Currently it is a three way stop intersection.
- The second project is the south side of Maple Rd., Bradford to Westbourne. Once this section of safety path is completed, there will be a continuous safety path from the border of Birmingham/Twp on the east to the west border of the Township (Inkster??) just along the SOUTH side of Maple.
The Board has approximately $1.5 million dollars collected from taxes 12/12 for this year's safety paths. These two projects are just over $500,000. I hope the Township develops more engineering plans for paths that are on the 2008 master plan or other identified needed paths with the $750,000 plus already collected. The proposed preliminary budget for 2013/2014 indicates that paths will be constructed. Apparently, the 2008 current millage will collect on 12/13 ... $$ another $1.5 million for 2014/2015 budget and more safety path construction.
There was some confusion at the Board table as to when the 2008 5 year millage money collection ended. Each millage was for 5 years. 1998/99 was the initial Safety Path millage. In 2004, the millage was renewed for another 5 years. Then the millage was renewed for another 5 years in 2008.. It was concluded that money will be collected in December 2013 for safety paths, and that 1.5 milllion will be to build more paths in 2014/2015 budget. Or, so it seems. There is/was talk among the Board members as to possibly NOT spend that 12/13 money for more paths, but to "bank" it in the safety path fund thus taking the $1.5 million to give approximate $100,000 per year for ten plus years for repairs/maintenance. I think that conversation was basically if NOT asking for another 5 year ballot renewal or for fear that a new ballot proposal may fail. The township wants dedicated safety path money for repairs/maintenance. IF the Board decides to put another renewal on the ballot, they should do that sometime in 2013....although they mentioned doing that in 2014.
I would hope that the Township Board would actively seek CITIZEN input for any requested safety path needs yet to be performed. After all, there has been 15 years of building safety paths and over 67 miles built. IF those citizen requested projects justify a need for another millage, those paths should be clearly identified BEFORE the request for another millage. I do worry about an enormous safety path bridge over I-75 .. at I'm sure a huge cost on the current master plan. Is that necessary?
These are the conversations many citizens should be engaging the Township Board. What are their needs? What does your subdivision want? Many people should be requesting ... not just one or two wanting to cross the road.
Since the 2008 safety path millage was for BUILDING safety paths, I think the money already collected and the money to be collected from the 12/13 tax collection should be spent on actually building safety paths, not "banked" in the dedicated Safety Path fund.
I also think that maintenance/ repairs at estimated $100,000 / year CAN and SHOULD come out of the General Fund when the Township and the citizens END the Safety Path MILLAGE collections and any money already "banked" since 1999 in that safety path fund is exhausted. I did not get the current balance of that fund. Need to contact the Twp. Treasurer.
The engineering and other departments will be gathering information for the Board's review in late March or April. Stay tuned for more Safety Path information.
It was a good meeting. Too bad the Board chooses to do this type of discussion at a study session that is NOT recorded. This topic could have easily been an agenda item on a regularly scheduled Board of Trustees meeting. Taxpayers could/should be watching and listening to how the leadership and key employees along with opportunities for citizen input can work toward seeking information and decision making on individual topics. This meeting was a lost "web or cable TV" opportunity to educate the public and the young people learning about government .... specifically on the safety path program.
Best advice: Contact the leadership at the township and invite someone to speak to your subdivision if safety paths are a concern. Individuals are also welcome to contact the township via phone, email or in person to discuss safety paths. The Board is seeking information about missing sections to the paths system and any safety issues or maintenance problems. Please do it SOON. Construction season is coming and engineering plans and permitting takes time.
Part of this blog is an edited form of a comment I posted at: http://bloomfield-mi.patch.com/blog_posts/9-am-wed-meeting-safety-paths-program-endsnew-millage-in-future