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News -> This Week's News Wednesday, April 1, 2015
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County road manager talks about state road proposal

By Ken DeLaat

On May 5, Michigan voters will decide on a proposed constitutional amendment to increase revenue for the roads and provide for schools and the local municipalities.

A “Yes” vote will support an increase in sales tax from six percent to seven percent, allowing for bills passed by the legislature regarding these funding increases will take effect. 

Newaygo County Road Commission Manager Kelly Smith spoke about   the proposal and the possible impact for Newaygo County.

“Right now, the sales tax on fuel being paid does not go to transportation,” Smith said. “It goes into the general fund and gets split up among revenue sharing and schools.”

“This constitutionally guarantees the fuel tax monies will go toward transportation, and the sales tax increase will go to the School Aid Fund and local units of government.”

One advocacy organization, Safe Roads Now, estimated substantial increases in revenue sharing for each city and village. For example, the organization’s figures show an increase for White Cloud from the present $119,041 to an estimated $145,233 for fiscal year 2016, $171,425 the following year and $197,617 the third year before stabilizing. For the City of Grant, the figures show an increase from the present $69,961 to $116,140 by the third year.

The School Aid Fund would see an increase in funding of $300 million, according to Safe Roads Now.

A pair of polls released last week indicates that the measure is facing an uphill climb, with estimates of 55 to 60 percent of people opposing the bill.

Organizations publicly endorsing the measure include the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association, the Michigan Municipal League, Michigan Education Association, Michigan Townships Association, Michigan Farm Bureau, Michigan Environmental Council and The Small Business Association of Michigan.

 Governor Rick Snyder and Lt. Governor William Calley both support passage as do the majority and minority leaders of the state Senate and the speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives.

State Senator Geoff Hansen voted in favor of the proposal. 100th District State Representative Jon Bumstead was one of 16 in the House who opposed the proposal.

Smith said that figures he has been sent show a projected increase of more than $3.5 million for the repair and maintenance of Newaygo County roads.

“At at the most, there might end up being a difference of two to three cents a gallon at the pump from what I’ve heard, and I know we all get tired of seeing any increase, but for those two to three cents there’s $1.2 billion a year for transportation, money that is constitutionally mandated to go to where it’s supposed to.”

“That’s funding that can go a long way in giving citizens the safe roads they deserve,” Smith said.




  Hardy Pond Trail
Trail group reports on progress

By Ken DeLaat

An atmosphere of optimism was in the air as the Hardy Pond Development Project committee met last Friday at the Big Prairie Township Hall to report on the progress of a project that would create a 42-mile trail around the impressive body of water shared by Newaygo and Mecosta counties.

The collaborative effort behind the project involves officials from both counties along with local units of government, park officials, Consumers Energy, the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA), the Newaygo Nationals Association, The Newaygo County Economic Development and Visitor’s Bureau offices, the River Country Chamber of Commerce, Spectrum Health/Tamarac and many other partners.

The two county boards of commissioners have approved committing $150,000 apiece toward the trail’s expected price tag of approximately $1.1 million. Project promoters say that the remaining monies will be sought from foundations, grants, contributions and other private sources. The land is exclusively owned by Consumers Energy, who is seeking approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the project. Once that approval is received, the initiative will be moving toward construction.

Planners say that the trail would provide a dramatic and challenging loop trail open to pedestrians and the mountain bikers whose numbers continue to grow. The IMBA has more than  a dozen organizational affiliates in Michigan alone, ranging from the Copper Harbor Trails Club to the Motor City Mountain Biking Association.

The Hardy Pond Trail would feature more than 40 miles of water views, valleys and 24 bridges, while linking to the campgrounds that dot the shoreline of the massive expanse of water that is impounded by Hardy Dam. Planners expect that mountain biking enthusiasts will be drawn to the unique setting and the distinctive structure of the course, while pedestrian traffic will be able to access the trail from campgrounds and other designated sites.

“A 3,000-acre lake with no private residents and 3,000 acres of forest land surrounding it is not to be found in a multi state area,” said Big Prairie Township Supervisor David Wright, an early proponent of the project. “This is a facility that will be a destination point for people from the midwest and beyond.”

A comprehensive economic impact study done for the trail committee projected that the initiative would bring an annual increase in economic activity of more than $3million to the area and create 60 new jobs.

“This is a tremendous opportunity with great potential,” said Martin Hall of the IMBA. “The process is a long one and the work toward getting a trail is arduous, but the committee is optimistic and is moving forward to make it a reality.”

“The opportunity to develop a loop trail with all the benefits this trail will offer is a game changer that will benefit both users and local economies in a significant way,” said Newaygo County Parks Director Ron Welton. “We are privileged to have so many with the vision and commitment to add yet another reason to live in or visit our area.”









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