Public hearing set on road millage

Jenny Lancour | Daily Press Escanaba City Council reviews two proposed millage requests — one to fund road improvements and the other to fund road improvements and underground utility repairs — during its regular meeting at city hall Thursday. A public hearing is scheduled for March 1. Pictured, from left, are Ralph Blasier, Michael Sattem, City Manager Patrick Jordan, Mayor Marc Tall, Peggy Schumann, and Mayor Pro Tem Ron Beauchamp.

ESCANABA — A hearing will be held to receive public input on a proposed millage request seeking funds for road improvements and underground utility repairs in Escanaba at the city council’s next meeting, members decided Thursday.

Council added the agenda item to Thursday’s regular meeting after discussing the topic during a work session on Tuesday. Mayor Marc Tall requested the session to address options to pay for additional needed road repairs that go beyond annual road maintenance typically handled by the pubic works department.

City crews can handle about $200,000 in road repairs each season, but any work beyond that requires hiring outside help, said Tall on Tuesday, also noting the state is increasing the city’s road funding but it’s not enough to do what needs to be done.

At the conclusion of Tuesday’s session, council requested City Manager Patrick Jordan to draft two separate millage proposals for council to review.

Jordan presented the separate proposals Thursday. One proposal asked voters to consider a millage request to pay only for road improvements, while the other proposal would be a millage to fund road improvements and underground utility repairs.

Specific millage amounts and timelines were not included, but left blank for council to decide along with a ballot date.

During discussion on the two proposals, several concerns were voiced about the need to make utility repairs that could arise during road improvements, so council agreed to focus on the millage request that included underground infrastructure work.

After asking Water/Wastewater Superintendent Jeff Lampi for his opinion, he agreed underground utility repairs are needed throughout many areas of the city, but advised this work would be very costly.

Mayor Pro Tem Ron Beauchamp advised council not to rush into making a decision on a millage request and recommended taking more time to look more closely at the proposal, as well as seek public comment.

Council unanimously agreed to hold a public hearing on the matter at its next meeting scheduled for March 1 beginning at 7 p.m. at city hall.

During public comment at the beginning of Thursday’s meeting, Escanaba resident Tony Fittante recommended council seek a five-year millage proposal to collect funds for a separate account earmarked only for road repairs. At the end of the five-year period, a renewal could be requested, if needed, he added.

“Our streets really need improvement,” Fittante said, citing damage done to vehicles due to potholes.

“I love this city,” he added, noting this is where he raised his family. He also thanked council members and city employees for all the work they do for Escanaba.

In other business Thursday, council approved a $13,141 bid for leak detection work, a $50,000 bid to remove lead paint and repaint 100 water hydrants, and a $93,000 bid to replace the roof at the digester building at the wastewater plant.

Council agreed to upgrade the city’s part-time planning and zoning secretary to full-time.

A hearing was scheduled for council’s March 1 meeting to receive public comments regarding council’s approval to condemn property at 910 Ludington St.

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Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143, jlancour@dailypress.net