By Scott Bolthouse
No formal decisions were made during Tuesday morning’s special meeting regarding the road and streetscape project that township officials say they’ve been working on for over the past two years.
“The purpose of this meeting is to allow the board to air questions, learn more about the project, particularly on the funding and financing portion, which has just come to light because it takes a while to perform all the engineering and do all of the estimation before you can start to look at financing a project and its funding sources,” said Supervisor David Glaab during the meeting.
The project, which is still in the works and has yet to be finalized, will consist of a complete rebuild of Huron River Drive, from the Country Pantry market to Sibley Road. The project also includes paving Craig and Evans streets in downtown, and replacing the infrastructure in the area, including fixing numerous crumbling sidewalks, curbs, driveways, adding underground utilities and upgrading streetlights.
“This is a fact gathering and information gathering process; no decision will be made here today,” he said.
During the nearly hour-long meeting, the board discussed the costs associated with the project, and how investing in fixing up the downtown area could bring new businesses to New Boston.
“It’s been my experience as a professional planner that putting public improvements into downtown is going to assist in regards to private investment,” said John Enos, community development director, during the meeting.
“Downtown New Boston is our central business area, and we need to improve the infrastructure down there,” Enos said.
The cost of the project is estimated at about $6.5 million, according to the township’s municipal advisor.
Using a bond to help secure the funding for the project was discussed, which would entail that the township pay out the $6.5 million over 15 years using an annual payment of $500,000.
The $500,000 annual payment could be made using any legally available sources, which could include the township’s general fund.
The board does not believe a special millage would be required for the work, although the possibility was brought up during the meeting. There was some apprehension among the board about being able to sustain such a large payment from the general fund over the proposed 15 year time period.
A recent $1 million granted to the township through the Wayne County Roads Initiative could also be used for the project. According to Enos, that funding would be available for the project because the downtown roads qualify as non-federally funded roads, a stipulation required for spending the funds.
Glaab also believes that, working together with Wayne County Commissioner Al Haidous, the township may be able to receive some extra funding through other possible grants due to the overall size of the project.
“The amount that we bond for, we could always bring that down with additional grants and additional funding that we may achieve as part of the project through different sources,” Glaab said.
Near the end of the meeting, Glaab gave some personal insight into his feelings regarding the downtown area, and why he believes the project is important for the community.
“This is an opportunity to do something very important and necessary for the community,” he said.
“I’m embarrassed of our downtown. There have been some people who have done some good work downtown and some areas look good, but a lot of it still looks trashy.”
“I think we as community leaders have to ask ourselves… do we want to take advantage of an opportunity to change our future, and have a community that we can be proud of, and be able to bring our friends and family through downtown and not be embarrassed,” said Glaab.
This article has been updated.
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