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Council wants pothole hill reconstructed

Motorists are being advised to drive much slower than usual over the area of W. Burdick St. known as cemetery hill. This stretch is riddled with potholes. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
March 19, 2014 - It won't do motorists any good right now, but the Oxford Village Council took action last week toward a potential long-term fix for the badly-deteriorated, pothole-ridden stretch of W. Burdick St. commonly known as cemetery hill.

"I want this project done," said Councilwoman Maureen Helmuth. "I drove over it myself five times this week and it's nasty."

In a 5-0 vote, council authorized village Manager Joe Young to increase the scope of the project from simply milling and resurfacing a 1,650-foot section of road between Ashley Way to S. Waterstone Dr. to completely removing and rebuilding it.

The increased scope means increasing the cost of the project from the current $378,000 to an estimated $558,000, which is how much the village's engineering firm, the Pontiac-based Nowak & Fraus, indicated it would cost in a grant application for federal aid submitted in January 2013.

"In order to do it right, it will take more money," Young told council. "In order to do it right, it's really a half-million-dollar project."

"I don't want to take the cheap way out," Helmuth said. "I just want to make sure we do it right."

Right now, the village is hoping to receive $378,000 from the state through its Roads and Risks Reserve Fund. That amount includes a $37,800 (or 10 percent) match from the village to cover preliminary engineering costs.

State Rep. Brad Jacobsen (R-Oxford) requested these funds on behalf of Oxford in early January.

The $378,000 that's been requested from the state would cover pulverizing (or milling) in place 2 inches of existing asphalt and resurfacing the road with 4 inches of new asphalt; constructing and connecting new drainage structures to the existing storm sewer system in order to effectively drain the roadway; lowering cemetery hill by 2 feet in order to improve stopping sight distance for motorists; installing curb and gutter; and widening the road from 22 to 24 feet.

Under the expanded project scope approved by council, the milling and resurfacing has been nixed.

Instead, all the past road surfaces and road base would be removed and a new road base installed atop which would sit the smooth new pavement.

"There are two or three layers of other road surfaces underneath," Young said.

Helmuth inquired as to the new road's "life expectancy."

"It's a brand new road, so it would be 15-20 years or more," Young said.

The expanded scope also includes additional drainage improvements. Young said the original scope contained only "minimal drainage improvements."

In a March 12 e-mail to Young, village engineer Rob Lavoie, president of the Pontiac-based Nowak & Fraus Engineers, explained these additional drainage improvements will "better control and drain surface waters."

"This will increase inlet capacities along the road and reduce flooding, rutting and washouts on roadside embankments," he wrote.

If the state grants Oxford's $378,000 request, the village would be responsible for a $37,800 match for preliminary engineering, plus an additional $180,000 for construction. That's based on the original $558,000 project estimate.

Given that approximately 30 percent of this project is located in the township, the village has requested the township and Road Commission for Oakland County share in the $37,800 match and the remaining $180,000 construction cost.

Of the 1,650 feet of road, 1,150 feet is located in the village, while the remaining 500 feet is in the township.

Young reported the road commission has already agreed to share in the preliminary engineering costs.

Council voted 5-0 to have Nowak & Fraus do the preliminary engineering for $28,312. This work is needed in order to solicit construction bids. Included in the motion was the road commission paying $8,580 (30 percent) of that cost.

The township board must decide whether or not to share in the remaining construction costs. If township officials choose to pay 30 percent, that works out to $54,000.

The village could fund its 70 percent share of the construction costs, which equals $126,000, out of its major streets fund, which has about $190,000 in it, according to Young.

However, township Supervisor Bill Dunn indicated the township should not be paying based on its percentage of the total linear footage, but rather on the actual construction cost to fix its portion of the road.

"We should only pay for what's being done to the township's section of the road, nothing else," he said. "There's much more extensive work to be done on (the village side). Why should the township pay for that?"

Councilman Bryan Cloutier asked if there's a backup plan to fix the road should the state deny Oxford's $378,000 request.

"At the end of the day, if this grant doesn't come through, we still need to do this project this year – like as soon as the (asphalt) plants open," he said.

Young explained there are two options.

One is to borrow money from the township. The other is to borrow from the village's $1.2 million investment account, which isn't earning much interest, according to Young.

"We're not even getting 1 percent," he said.

Council's overall sentiment regarding the W. Burdick St. project was it definitely wants action.

"This thing needs to get done," said Councilman Elgin Nichols. "I've heard about it forever since I've been here. Let's do it."

The public wants action as well.

"It's almost to the point you might have to close the road down (due to its poor condition)," said village resident Emily Dolata during the public comment portion of the council meeting. "Enough excuses. Put gravel down, whatever you have to do . . . It's just getting outrageous. We have to do something."

According to a timeline prepared by Nowak & Fraus, construction plans will be completed by April 19. Bids could be solicited and awarded in May. Construction could begin June 15 and end Aug. 15.

Young indicated that during construction, this portion of W. Burdick St. would have to be completely closed because it's too narrow to close one lane at a time and keep the other open for traffic.

This stretch of W. Burdick St. is heavily-traveled.

In December 2012, a 42-hour traffic count was conducted and it recorded 4,709 eastbound vehicles and 4,858 westbound vehicles as the daily volume.

There was some question as to whether the new surface of W. Burdick St. should be asphalt, as it is now, or concrete.

Cloutier said that decision is best left to the engineer.

"That's not in our repertoire," he said.

Village President Dave Bailey pointed out the decision to pay for either asphalt or concrete is council's to make.

In a March 12 e-mail, Lavoie weighed in on the issue.

"The life cycle costs for concrete pavements and high stability bituminous (i.e. asphalt) pavements are very similar and we are of the opinion that selection of either pavement type will yield similar useful lives," he wrote. "Although we initially believe a high stability bituminous pavement structure is best for this project, we will consider concrete and would like the village's DPW and council to weigh in on their preferences."

Lavoie noted the "useful life" of either road material "will be approximately 20 years before any surface maintenance is expected."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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