Saturday, November 16, 2013

A tale of two road millage proposals

Hamburg Township is strongly considering putting a road millage on the ballot. That got my attention because half of Cunningham Lake road is in Hamburg Township. Protect Genoa Township Neighborhoods will be keeping an eye out to see what the plans are regarding the road list.

I am cautiously optimistic however that we won't see the same mistakes made by Hamburg Township as we had in Genoa. Smart officials learn from the past. Hamburg has had its share of drama over the years, but things have been much quieter there the past couple of years. That's a very good thing. They also saw what happened in Genoa Township just recently. I don't think they want a "Protect Hamburg Township Neighborhoods" committee to be formed there.

I'm not going to argue here whether Townships should jump in and fix county roads here in their area. That's up to the voters. Whether taxes in Hamburg should be increased for roads in Hamburg to be fixed is also up to the voters there. Whether about 1/2 of the people in Protect Genoa Township Neighborhoods gets involved with a highly organized campaign will be based on the road list. What I am going to do here is compare the process that I've seen so far.

Three differences I've seen are timing, community involvement, and road list.

Timing - This is being discussed now in different focus groups. If Hamburg is going to go through with the millage, it will be in November 2014 according to their Supervisor Pat Hohl. This isn't a rush job, or something pushed under the radar by Gary McCririe. There's been three meetings already, and there's more meetings scheduled. This is one year before the election, and it's not going to be in a (usually) low turnout off year. Hamburg's so far doing this right.

Community Involvement. -  In Genoa, all involvement I saw was after the road list was picked. There were three meetings after the fact, with at least one (probably two)  of them well after the absentee voters were out. The attitude from Genoa Township was "all or nothing" regarding the road list. They got their wish. Nothing. I attended the last meeting (3rd) in Hamburg. Hamburg is prepared for a Genoa situation (as something to avoid). County Road Commissioner Mike Craine was there. That got my attention as he wasn't at any of the Genoa meetings I attended. Craine gave his presentation and it was informative. He didn't try and steer anyone in a direction, although his presentation focused on repairing paved roads instead of new projects on gravel roads. There was also a packet to inform the attendees with estimated costs of repairs of each segment and traffic counts on most roads. There were ideas for a road list that varied but all were fixing currently paved roads. There was a little talk about gravel roads, but only maintenance and not paving.

Road List - The three most important factors in a road millage are in reverse order, how long, how much, and the road list (where is the money going). In the Genoa Township plan, there were several questions to the manager in how the road list was picked. The manager said he picked the list. We can't unelect a manager, but his boss can be fired. Most thought that list didn't make any sense and the results showed election time. Hamburg doesn't have a road list yet. That will be largely picked by people at the meetings. The preliminary ideas there tend to be towards main roads you would expect. While Genoa strongly implied that Hamburg would pave Bauer road if Genoa paved their side, that turned out to be wishful thinking at best, and lying at worst. The road list in Genoa sealed the fate of the millage proposal. Hamburg is being careful in the road list, and it's a smart move learning from the bad decisions from the powers that be in Genoa.

I don't know whether a Hamburg millage will pass, but based on the process I'm seeing, it has a better chance than Genoa's did. There's certainly plenty of arguments on tax issues length of the millage, but I haven't seen the gamesmanship there so far that I saw with Genoa. Granted, I've been at one meeting there (compared to 3 with Genoa) but the process seems much better in Hamburg.

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