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State picks M-24 over W. Burdick St.



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July 09, 2014 - The good news is the state agreed to allocate a significant amount of money toward repairing an Oxford road that needs it.

The bad news is it isn't the road that officials were hoping for.

Last week, the state announced which road projects would receive a piece of the $115 million in supplemental funding.

Unfortunately, for Oxford officials, the reconstruction of a badly-deteriorated, 1,691-foot stretch of W. Burdick St./Seymour Lake Rd., underway since June 11, wasn't on the list.

"Our project was not approved," said state Rep. Brad Jacobsen (R-Oxford), who had applied for $500,000 in funding back in January. "It doesn't look like there's any money currently available for W. Burdick St."

The state's decision was definitely not the outcome Jacobsen was expecting.

"It was rough because I had pretty much been assured, back in March, that we were going to get it, but I didn't want to say anything until I got the official, 100 percent (confirmation) in my hand," he said. "(As) it turns out, I'm glad I didn't say anything."

Village Councilman Elgin Nichols wasn't surprised by the state's decision.

"I think it's politics as usual," he said. "I think it's unfortunate they have to play politics with a serious issue that we have here. But I kind of knew that might happen. That's why I don't believe in counting ducks before you've got them in your cage."

Instead of funding a main local road, the state chose to fix one of its highways.

A total of $600,000 was allocated for "heavy repairs" along approximately 4 miles of M-24 between Harriet St. and Davison Lake Rd. in Oxford Township.

"They are going to mill down and resurface selected areas that are in the worst shape along that section of road," Jacobsen explained. "They expect the work to start in either September or October. So, it's going to be a late summer or early fall project. They expect it to be done before winter."

"I'm sure they're going to primarily do most of (the work) at night (in order) to disrupt traffic as little as possible," he noted.

M-24 was chosen over W. Burdick St. for one simple reason Ė more vehicles travel over the state highway than the village road.

"The comment from the one staffer I talked to was, 'While your project was worthwhile, the work on M-24 will affect more motorists,'" Jacobsen said. "It makes sense, although it's tough on the village."

"It's nice that we're going to get some road work done, but it's certainly disappointing considering how bad (W. Burdick St.) was," he added. "I'm just glad the village council stepped up and said, 'Well, we have to get it done.' They didn't wait for this wishful money that we were hoping to get.

"I can't even imagine what it would have been like having to go through another winter with (the road) like that."

"We did what we did because we had to do it," Nichols said.

Nichols understands why M-24 was selected. "M-24 has got its problems; there's no question about it," he said. "The whole State of Michigan has road problems."

But what the state failed to understand, according to Nichols, is that Burdick St. is a "major highway" for Oxford, so it was "critical" to get it fixed.

"When I first came to the area, that was one of the first roads, I (traveled on) trying to get familiar with the (town)," he said. "I said, "Holy smokes! They need to fix this thing. Later on, I got on the council (and) that was one of the first things I brought up."

The portion of W. Burdick St./Seymour Lake Rd. between Ashley Way in the village and S. Waterstone Dr. in the township is expected to remain closed until July 26 as workers rebuild the road from base to surface, make drainage improvements, lower the hill by 2 feet and install curb and gutter.

The total project cost is estimated to be $565,986 with the village's portion being $467,152 and the township's being $98,834.

Township officials previously agreed to contribute up to $85,000 toward the project, but since then, the scope of their portion changed as additional storm sewer infrastructure is being installed at the request of the Road Commission for Oakland County (RCOC).

The RCOC has agreed to pay up to $20,000 of the engineering costs for the project.

At its May 27 meeting, council voted 4-1 to pay for its portion of the project by borrowing money internally from existing village funds as opposed to issuing capital improvement bonds and borrowing externally.

Council was expected to revisit the funding issue at its July 8 meeting. Village Manager Joe Young was expected to present council with the option of using $67,152 from the municipality's major street fund and borrowing the remaining $400,000 from internal funds at an interest rate of 1.5 percent.

"This puts another hammerlock on the available amount of money that (the village has)," Nichols said. "So, we need to again look at expenses. This is not going to be taken lightly in terms of the general fund (reserve).

"We need to keep that general fund (reserve) strong, (otherwise) it is going to deteriorate. We're putting ourselves more in debt. (That's) not a good thing."

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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