November 28, 2014

Road commission approved for stimulus funds

Amount not enough to push project up to this year

Tim Barnum
Potholes like these are not an uncommon sight along Turner Road.
Tim Barnum
The center of a stretch Turner Road just north of Tonkey road.
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By Tim Barnum|Staff writer
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ARENAC COUNTY — More stimulus funds aiming to put a shot in the arm of the American economy are floating towards Arenac County, this time in the form of over a quarter million dollars allocated to the road commission.

“It looks like we’re going to get about $274,000,” said Arenac County Road Commission Manager/Superintendent Blair Dyer.

According to Dyer, the funds will be handed down to the road commission through the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), which disperses all federal funds to county road commissions, and will be used towards reconstruction of a five and a half mile stretch of Turner Road, a project Dyer estimates to cost around $1 million.

“This project is in the wings to go. I don’t have to sit there and figure out what to do,” Dyer said.

He says the road’s condition is in serious need of improvement.

“There’s nothing but potholes and bumps,” Dyer said, adding the road project will include new pavement, shoulder work, new stripes and guardrails and give drivers smooth access to M-65, US-23 and I-75. “That (Turner Road) would complete an all-season access route across the top of the county.”

However, last month in an interview with the Independent, Dyer said he was hoping to secure enough funds from the economic stimulus package to push up the Turner Road project to this year. He adds the project was already scheduled for 2010, stimulus funds not withstanding, since that’s when Dyer says the county would have enough money from Federal Gas Tax, an annual allotment Dyer says is approximately $325,000 yearly, to do the project.

He says he doesn’t believe the major reconstruction phase of the road improvement can be pushed up with the $274,000 allotment, though.

“I was hoping to get more (stimulus funds) to get it started this summer,” Dyer said, adding the Turner Road project is approximately five and a half miles long, and the government funds could only pay for about one mile out of the total project. “I mean, it helps, don’t get me wrong, but it’s only a mile of road. $274,000 is not a lot of money for a road project. I’m not knocking the system, it’s just the truth.”

But he also said there won’t be a total absence of progress made on Turner Road this year. Dyer says during the spring and summer months engineers and surveyors will be evaluating the road for actual costs and designing the end product. This will assure the funds are completely nailed down for the county, since there is a deadline to have it ready for shovels to hit the dirt.

“I have to have all the engineering and the project approved (by MDOT) by Dec. 1,” Dyer said.

Even though Dyer’s wish to move the project up to this year didn’t come true, he says in the end, the stimulus funds, slightly more than $50,000 less than the annual gas tax apportionment to the county, can help set a solid foundation for future projects.

“I plan a lot of money out in the future. You have to think five, six, ten years down the road,” Dyer said, adding he would be able to save some of the road commission’s gas tax funds now that the Arenac County Road Commission will have some extra money. “I’ll just throw it (saved gas tax money) in with the project money.

“That’s ($274,000) almost my allotment for a year anyway.”

Before the project is official and approved, Dyer also says he will be holding a meeting with other local groups and residents in Arenac County so others can weigh in and be prepared and informed on the project.

Dyer said he received the letter from MDOT informing him of the road commission’s stimulus package allocation on March 4.

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