Paying for road repairs in Webster Township


Here's a recent view of a small section of Walsh Road.

When it comes to fixing roads, there’s one big factor that needs to be addressed no matter what, and that’s money.

Webster Township has a new budget plan in place and one part of it has funding set aside for road work, which for some residents is a big issue, especially those on a dirt roads.

However, like other townships in Washtenaw County, there’s a unique arrangement with the roads between the county road commission (WCRC) and township.

At its March 15 meeting, the Webster Township Board approved a budget for the upcoming fiscal year 2022-23. The budget allocates $430,000 for potential road projects.

Prior to the decision, some residents, specifically a group of four from the Walsh Farms neighborhood, voiced their concerns over road conditions.

One resident described the road conditions on parts of Walsh as abysmal with a big concern being safety.

Tom Super, a resident in Walsh Farms, said they have seen the road deteriorate to a point where it’s causing damage to some vehicles. He also expressed concerns for safety and noted how the conditions could delay an ambulance from reaching someone in need.

Another Walsh Farms resident, Andy Hirsh, reiterated the safety concerns and said there are times when driving around a blind corner that one is faced with another car trying to dodge potholes.

Super said they are not really asking for a paved road, but just a normal gravel road.

Township supervisor John Kingsley had gone into the meeting with a proposed amount of $330,000 for road funding. After a suggestion by board trustee Dan Munzel that they devote more for roads, the board adjusted the budget number to increase it by $100,000 to $430,000.

However, at this point the board hasn’t approved using all of that just yet.

In follow up after the meeting, Kingsley told The Sun Times News (STN) that as of now the board approved contracting for dust control and an improvement project on Huron River Drive, north of North Territorial.

He said there’s still money left in the budget for additional improvements for the township board to consider.

The Huron River project is from North Territorial to Strawberry Lake Road. Its estimated total cost is $379,000 with Webster’s share at $189,500. This project is also a partnership with Dexter Township, which is expected to share the costs of the work that’s planned to include heavy brushing, tree cutting, ditching, culvert installations, roadside berm removal, shaping the existing surface and the application of 10,650 tons of limestone with associated dust control and project restoration.

The larger dust control for Webster will be three applications of brine on certified gravel/limestone roads in the township and is estimated to cost the township nearly $50,000.

As to whether there’s anything in particular he wants the community to know when it comes to budgets and roads, Kingsley said, “Our roads are owned by the County, not by the Township and are required to be maintained by the County. We, as a Township, receive no funding for road upkeep or repair. The voluntary improvements made by our Township come out of our general fund.”

The WCRC did present Webster with a road plan that included project recommendations and estimated costs. The plan estimated that Webster would need to spend $486,232 to accomplish all of the recommended projects.

The plan also said the county would put forth nearly $57,000 in matching funds.

The Huron River Drive and dust control projects were part of the WCRC’s recommendations, but there was nothing pertaining to Walsh Road. The other projects in the county plan included work on Farrell Road and Jennings Road.

As a side note, the township's overall general budget was approved with expenditures outweighing the revenue, therefore it has a deficit that is being filled by savings from the fund balance.

Township treasurer John Scharf voted no on the budget because it’s a deficit spending one.

STN asked Scharf in follow up as to what his take is on road funding and what projects should be done this year.

He said, “Both financially and practically, road maintenance in Webster Township is the sole responsibility of the Washtenaw County Road Commission (WCRC). Year after year, Webster voluntarily spends some of our General Fund budget on gravel road maintenance. In the last four years Webster spent a total of $875,000 on road maintenance. During the same period, we collected $1,347,000 in Township General Fund property tax. So, during the past four years, Webster spent 65 percent of the property tax levied on road maintenance.”

STN asked him if there is anything he wants the community to know when it comes to the budget and roads.

He said, “If residents want Webster Township to spend more on roads, the residents will have to pass a new property tax millage by election or petition the Township to implement Township-wide road maintenance Special Assessment District.”

I'm interested
I disagree with this
This is unverified