Snow removal renewal up for vote
Voters on Aug. 7 will decide the fate of a familiar millage, as the road commission is once again asking for renewal of a 0.5-mill tax that is mostly used to keep Leelanau County’s roads clear of ice and snow through the long winter.
The Roads and Highways Maintenance and Repair Millage will bring in about $1.2 million, or about 23 percent of the road commission’s total core budget. The tax, which costs the owner of a home with a taxable value of $100,000 a total of $50 per year, has been on the books since 1986 and has been approved by voters every two years. The money is mostly used to pay for salt and for plowing snow, said Joe Nedow, Road Commission finance manager.
“We use most of it during the winter months,” Nedow said. Any money left over is used for seal coating projects and other summer maintenance, he said.
The Road Commission has 24 routes for plowing and salting 171 miles of primary, or numbered, roads, 426 miles of local roads and 209 miles of state trunk line roads. The only roads not plowed by the county are those that are located within Empire, Northport and Suttons Bay villages, each of which has its own maintenance departments to plow roads.
In fact, Nedow said, some of the money raised with the millage goes to those villages; last year they received a combined total of $69,200.
“The millage allows us to provide the winter snow plowing the residents have come to expect,” said Lee Bowen, Road Commission chairman. “With the millage we are able to service every road in the county in an eight hour shift. We can also provide weekend and night service.’
Bowen said he doesn’t think having the Road Commission’s millage request accidentally omitted on the original ballot, which was sent out to absentee voters, will affect passage of the proposal. The error was corrected and absentee voters were sent new ballots.
“The people recognize the good service the Road Commission provides and will support us,” Bowen said. “It’s the same half mill we’ve had since 1986 and we are appreciative of the people supporting us.”
The commission also works hard to stay within the constraints of its budget, he said. It also works to keep its fleet of plows in good shape and recently approved the purchase of three tandem axle cab and chassis trucks that will be fully outfitted to handle plowing and spreading its mixture of salt and sand. The new trucks will cost about $450,000.
Leelanau County uses a mix of sand and salt that is five parts sand and one part salt. While the Michigan Department of Transportation pays for salt that is used on trunk line roads, the commission pays for the rest. The last time salt was purchased in January, the commission paid $63 per ton, a cost that will likely go up this year, Nedow said.