The Hillsdale City Council with help from com­munity members, created a list of 24 road­funding options. The potential solu­tions include ways to cut waste in the budget, pri­vatize city­run projects, and gen­erate revenue, such as the income tax.

All ideas are included on the list, regardless of their via­bility. City Manager Linda Brown said some, like selling roads, may be illegal and will need to be approved by the City Attorney.

Although some options are unpopular, city council hasn’t dis­counted any­thing yet because the money is greatly needed.

Unlike county roads which cost between $500,000­$600,000, city roads cost almost twice as much.

“For us to do one mile, it’s a million dollars,” Brown said. “That’s because we have curb, we have gutter, we have storm water, we have san­itary and water mains, and all those things that run under the street. When you have to replace all of that, it’s extremely expensive.”

One method city lead­ership has dis­cussed is grant money, but Brown says only six streets are eli­gible for this funding.

“We’ve tapped into every oppor­tunity for grant money, but it’s so restricted,” Brown said. “Because we have what’s called a small, urban boundary, and unless that street con­nects to that boundary, it’s not eli­gible for funding.”

Once council agrees on a plan, the city will move forward with bud­geting and road work using the guidance of a Pavement Surface Eval­u­ation Rating com­pleted in June 2013.

The PASER study eval­uated the 60.899 miles of Hillsdale streets on a scale of 1­10, with 1 meaning “total recon­struction” and streets ranked an 8, 9, or 10 having “no main­te­nance required.”

More than 37 miles of Hillsdale streets ranked as a 4 or below, and excluding the 10.04 miles of road not rated, Hillsdale’s weighted average PASER rating was 3.8, meaning Hillsdale’s streets are in “poor to fair con­dition” overall.

According to City Finance Director Bonnie Tew, many other cities’ streets are in the same con­dition, and the economy is largely to blame for the lack of action thus far.

“We are at the 1992 level of revenue from the state right now,” Tew said. “It’s a triple whammy because our property taxes have declined for the last five or six years, revenue sharings have gone down, and as the indus­tries left, our top employers became tax exempt.”

State Rep. Ken Kurtz also addressed the eco­nomic issues holding back road funding at the Feb. 3 Hillsdale City Council meeting. Kurtz said that with the uptick in the economy, he believes fixing streets should be one of the main pri­or­ities throughout the state of Michigan.

“If there are dollars, we need to appro­priate a good bit of that back into our infra­structure,” Kurtz said.

Every dollar invested in pre­ven­tative main­te­nance now will save $4 to $6 in future recon­struction costs, according to a recent pub­li­cation of Asset Man­agement Guide for Local Agencies in Michigan by Cam­bridge Sys­tem­atics, Inc., and the Michigan Department of Trans­portation.

If the street­repair process doesn’t start soon, costs will only con­tinue to rise, and Hillsdale isn’t the only one facing this bleak future if action isn’t taken soon.

“We are not unique in the state of Michigan or across this country with dete­ri­o­rating

infra­structure and reduced rev­enues,” Tew said. “While some think we’ve mis­managed things for many years and didn’t do what we needed to do, we really did do what we could.”

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Macaela Bennett
Collegian editor-in-chief, Macaela J. Bennett grew up in the Pumpkin Capital of the World, Morton, Illinois. In May, she will join The Arizona Republic as a 2016 Pulliam Fellow, working at its News Desk reporting on Metro/Breaking News. In the past, she's interned for The East Peoria Times Courier, Campus Reform, The Town Crier, and The Tennessean. Outside of the newsroom, she enjoys playing soccer, hiking, running, and cheering on the Cubs.