Smooth roads will resurface this summer thanks to a grant from the Michigan Department of Agricultural and Rural Development.
The City of Hillsdale received $100,000 under MDARD’s Rural Development Grant, which the city plans to put toward resurfacing Hallett Street from Reading Avenue to the west city limits and replacing a storm drain on the same stretch, according to Economic Development Coordinator Kelly LoPresto.
Jake Hammel, director of the Department of Public Services, expects the 3,200 foot long resurfacing process to start in late April or early May, and be completed by the Fourth of July.
The Hallett Street project was one of 16 projects that qualified for the grant out of 66 proposals, with requests totaling approximately $5 million, according to a news statement. The grant is a reimbursement grant, Hammel said, meaning that the project must be completed before the funds are applied.
Under the 2019 Rural Development Grant, the MDARD distributed a total of $1,245,500, which required a total of $1.5 million in matching funds by the various recipients.
Out of the 16 projects that qualified for the grant, roughly half received funds approximating $100,000, of which Hillsdale’s Hallett Street project was one.
The total cost of the Hallett Street resurfacing is $468,000, which will be offset by the $100,000 grant and the 30 percent matching funding that the city was required to make under the terms of the grant, and will begin as soon as weather permits and the asphalt plants open, LoPresto said.
The MDARD Rural Development grant applies to communities of population 60,000 or less, and aims “to promote the sustainability of land-based industries and support infrastructure that benefits rural communities,” according to a news statement. The grant allows individuals, businesses, and local governments ranging from counties to cities to apply for projects that would train workers, boost regional tourism, encourage business development, and develop infrastructure. The Hallett Street project fell in the infrastructure development category, which also includes projects related to bridges, renewable energy, and wastewater, according to the grant guidelines.
“What these grants demonstrate is the commitment of MDARD and the State of Michigan to help ignite impactful projects and efforts in rural communities,” said MDARD Director Gary McDowell in a news statement. “Through targeted investments and matching funds from businesses, local municipalities and others, we can provide opportunities for thousands of businesses and employees in every corner of the state.”
Though both LoPresto and Hammel said they wasn’t aware if the City of Hillsdale had applied for this specific grant before, they said the city has tried unsuccessfully to apply for grants to repair a bridge on Hallett Street. While some grants require candidates to prove the measurable economic benefit of a project, other grants are written specifically to address fatalities brought about by failed infrastructure. Since no fatalities have occurred as a result of the Hallett Street bridge, the city hasn’t met the criteria for those grants.
Without additional funds, Hammel said that replacing the bridge is impractical, since the bridge is owned by the Michigan Department of Transportation and not by the City of Hillsdale. The cost of replacing the bridge, Hammel said, “is probably a million dollars. We can contribute to that, but we can’t float that bill. I can’t justify spending street money on something that’s not ours.”
Hammel, however, couldn’t afford to wait any longer on the the Hallett Street project.
“The road is in just such a horrible state of disrepair, and there’s a school and a medical facility and a nice subdivision down there,” he said.
Hammel anticipates the inconvenience of the construction process, and said that even though the project will overlap with the end of the school year as observed by Will Carleton Academy, “Back to school in the fall is way more stressful for parents and children. I’d prefer to bite the bullet and get it done now.”
The time frame for the project is limited by the availability of the contractor, Concord Excavating and Grading, Inc., which the city contracted to repair State Street in 2016, Hammel said.
“We have a history with them, and they’re a quality contractor,” Hammel said. “For the same reason, however, I can’t force a schedule on him, he’s a quality contractor, and his books are full.”
For the Hallett Street project and others in the City of Hillsdale, Hammel stressed the need to observe construction signage.
“There’s a detour, for everyone’s sake, including yours,” Hammel said. “We don’t do that to annoy or inconvenience you. There are giant holes that can swallow your car, and driving through the construction area slows down you and the workers. We do that for your benefit, and those workers deserve to go home every night. If you have questions, call my office, listen to the radio, read the daily periodicals.”