PAW PAW — More people voted “yes” the second time around for the Van Buren Road Commission’s request for a millage. But even more this time voted “no.”
Back in August, 6,140 voted in favor of the 3-mill levy for 12 years, but 7,713 voted no. The partial results Tuesday were 8,766 yes and 15,025 no.
Lawrence Township had not reported by deadline Tuesday night, but the total number of voters is 2,503, making it impossible to change the overall result. The difference countywide is 6,259 no votes.
Van Buren County Road Commission Engineer-manager Lawrence Hummel said he realized the millage was a “big ask,” but people wanted the roads fixed.
“At this point obviously they didn’t want them all fixed that fast, I guess,” Hummel said.
There is no plan for a third millage request, Hummel said. The Road Commission will continue to use what local money it has to leverage state and federal funds for road repair.
When the millage lost back in August, Road Commission officials decided to try again after launching an educational campaign. But, Hummel said, people also told them the proposed levy was too much or it was one levy too many. There were also people that never vote for millages. Still, Hummel said, about 40 percent of the people voted in favor of the idea.
But now comes a time of hard decisions, Hummel said. The more heavily trafficked roads that carry a lot of commercial vehicles will be kept up. These include Red Arrow Highway, Blue Star Memorial Highway, County Road 388 and County Road 681. But others that are too far gone may be going back to gravel roads.
“Which ones at this point, I don’t know,” Hummel said. So far this year the Road Commission has converted 10 miles of paved sections back to gravel, Hummel said.
According to Road Commission officials, two-thirds of the primary roads – those marked “County Road” and “highway” – are in poor condition. The problem is that, though the state is providing more funding, it’s only enough to keep the roads in pretty much the same condition they are now – not better.
Fifty-five miles of primary roads are considered good. To bring the remaining 295 miles up to good status would cost $120 million.
The non-primary, county-owned roads are called “local roads” and there are 980 miles of those. About 147 miles of local roads are considered good, the rest aren’t. The townships chip in for those roads.