March 18 2013 12:00 AM

Budget hearing shines light on public service millage spending

Tuesday, May 8 — Nearly half of Lansing’s roads are in poor to failed condition by state standards, the Lansing City Council was told Monday night, but the Bernero administration says the $1.9 million expected in new tax revenue will keep the number from growing exponentially.

Of the new millage money approved by Lansing voters last year, the largest chunk (about $800,000) will go toward “preventative maintenance,” Public Service Director Chad Gamble said during his department's budget hearing. He emphasized the importance of such maintenance because the longer the city waits to fix roads, the more costly it becomes over time.

“Streets are like roofs: The longer the delay, the larger the cost will be to improve it,” Gamble, who is also the city’s chief operating officer, said. “The millage is a good news story for local roads and neighborhoods.”

Another $400,000 will be for emergency repairs and the remaining $700,000 will be for “key services,” such as keeping 10 employees on staff for street sweeping, leaf removal and plowing. Gamble said those employees likely would have been laid off if it weren’t for the millage.

While the millage is positive news on that front, it’s a drop in the bucket considering what it’d take to improve the city’s roads. Most of that comes from the state gas tax, which has remained at the same level for the past 10 years.

"The millage is far from a complete solution," Gamble said. “The state failed to deliver on promises of transportation funding. The funding level to prevent the road network from deteriorating on an annual basis is between $12 million and $13 million. As you can tell this has been woefully underfunded for years," he said.