Over some objection, City of Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township push forward Grove Road rebuild
A crumbling section of Grove Road will be rebuilt a year early.
Through an intergovernmental agreement between the City of Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township, the township will advance funds to complete the project in 2013 instead of 2014 as originally planned.
The Ypsilanti City Council approved the intergovernmental agreement by a 5-1 vote at its special meeting Monday evening .
But there was some opposition on City Council to reaching an agreement on the road with Ypsilanti Township as the issue has been a point of contention between the two governments in the past.
Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com
The project is estimated to cost $571,000, of which the city is responsible for $219,000 and the federal government will pay for $352,000. Under the new agreement, which is similar to the formation of an authority, Ypsilanti Township will pay that $352,000 and be repaid as federal dollars come in in 2014.
The city already has design plans around 40 percent complete.
Council Member Brian Robb, who cast the lone vote against the agreement, questioned why the city wouldn’t use its reserves to pay for the project, then repay itself when federal dollars arrive.
“We’re paying for this with our dignity and our pride,” Robb said, contending that the agreement looks like a loan from a neighbor with which the city has an adversarial relationship. “That screws us over politically ... and it’s a disaster.”
He said after the meeting that he didn't oppose pulling the project forward to 2013, but he wanted the city to pay for it.
"The city manager proposed a budget two weeks ago that had us spending $11 million of fund balance in the next five years. There is no need to borrow money for this project. We should be pre-funding it ourselves," Robb said.
Council Member Pete Murdock also said he was disappointed in the way City Council handled the project and would have preferred to pay for it with city funds, but he ultimately voted in favor of the proposal.
City Manager Ralph Lange, who served as director of the Monroe County Road Commission, said the the project was out of sync with the city’s budget cycle and the arrangement made sense.
Throughout the discussion, he offered several reasons why an intergovernmental agreement was a positive for both governments.
“I think there’s very little downside. I think it’s kind of an olive branch to the neighborhood, and we’re doing them a favor that doesn’t hurt us,” Lange said. “I try to do that as long as it doesn’t disadvantage the city. There’s no downside that I can tell and there are a lot of small upsides.”
Completing the rebuild a year earlier would also likely keep down the cost of materials, which fluctuate and will likely rise, Lange said. He added that it will also save Department of Public Works the hassle and cost of spot patching the road and routine maintenance.
He also stressed that it is a total rebuild and more permanent solution than the proposal council rejected in October. The proposal called for a temporary fix, but a majority of City Council was only interested in a total rebuild of the road.
Council Member Mike Bodary said he supported the idea because it was a permanent solution and the road's condition was driving township residents to conduct business in Belleville and elsewhere.
“The constant comments about the road is an open sore that has been going on for some time,” he said. “It affects commerce between the township and city because they don’t feel like coming to Ypsilanti to trade and do business.
“I don’t see any black eye on the city for letting this go.”
The border between the township and the city runs down Emerick Road, which dead-ends at a southwest angle into Grove. The area south and east of Emerick and Grove is the township. A small slice of land that includes the road north and west of Emerick belongs to the city.
The Washtenaw County Road Commission repaved the road on the township’s side several years ago. During that project, it slimmed the township’s section of the road from four lanes to two while adding bike lanes. Kirton previously said that has caused extra stress on the city’s side.
Mayor Pro Tem Lois Richardson said the city needed to move forward with the plan.
“It’s an olive branch,” she said. “You don’t know how much flak I caught from city and township people (after council rejected the October 2011 proposal),” she said. “I think we need to accept it, get the road done, and when the feds give us some money we give it to the township and not look at it as a loan.”
Tom Perkins is a freelance writer for AnnArbor.com. To reach the news desk, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 734-623-2530.