October 20, 2014

Arenac County roads could reap the benefits of economic stimulus

By Tim Barnum|Staff writer
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ARENAC COUNTY — Congress and the White House have agreed on an economic stimulus package pushing $800 billion and roads within Arenac County may be among the many beneficiaries of the package.

Arenac County Road Commission Manager/Superintendent Blair Dyer says that since a large portion of the package is being set aside for infrastructure projects, a major repair project on Turner Road could draw the attention of the state when it starts allocating stimulus funds handed down from the Federal Government.

The Turner Road project would provide an all seasons county corridor with give access to I-75 and US-23, would include replacing culverts and guard rails, grinding up existing pavement, rebuilding shoulders and laying new stone and asphalt along an approximately five and half mile stretch of road. Dyer says it was originally scheduled for 2010, when funds for the project would be accessible.

“We (road commission) weren’t going to do anything (major projects) this year, but if this is approved, we can move our project up to this year,” he said. “One thing about the President’s plan, is he wants it to be on the fast track and this is.

“This will stimulate the economy because you put people to work. … There’s several contractors involved,” Dyer continued, adding separate contractors could be used for construction, striping and paving when the road repairs are under way. “This is a large project, I figure probably an $800,000 to $1 million project.

“That road was last done in 1959. It’s all potholes and patches,” Dyer added.

He says that a four-county task force he sits on, which includes road commission representatives from Arenac, Iosco, Ogemaw and Roscommon counties, and its long-term planning has given the county a fair shot for consideration for the stimulus funds, since Arenac County road projects that would require federal grant money have already been submitted to the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), which receives Federal Gas Tax dollars and allocates them to county road commissions for grant purposes.

“We’ve already got our five-year plan,” Dyer said. “I got plans to do road projects all the way to 2013, I just don’t have any money.”

Another part of the stimulus Dyer says is appealing is the 100 percent grant feature from the government.

“I’m glad there’s no matching funds,” he said. “I think we’ll get something. … I’m excited about it.”

But Turner Road isn’t the only road that may draw attention for stimulus funds. Some of the infrastructure funds will also be allocated for Indian reservation roads, according to information from the Michigan Association of Counties.

“We (Saginaw-Chippewa Indian Tribe) were approached to put together a shovel-ready project for this proposed economic stimulus plan and those have been put through,” said Saginaw-Chippewa Indian Tribe Public Relations Manager Frank Cloutier. “We’ve already been in contact with the interior and MDOT about roads like Worth, Sagatoo and roads in Isabella County.

“The whole start of the stimulus was to spur the economy and create jobs,” he added. “We would be putting engineers and site planners and contractors to work.”

While those job creations would be short-term, Cloutier says the long-term implications of stimulus funds coming to the county for Worth or Sagatoo roads would be economic growth.

“The more people we can get to the casino on a clear path, the more chances there are for future development,” he said. “Any time we grow, two percent grows.”

Cloutier added that in the past, two percent funds have been requested for repairs to Sagatoo Road, but if stimulus funds are used instead, townships that requested those funds could make different two percent requests.

He says more developments on the Saganing Reservation would ultimately mean more jobs in the county.

Both Cloutier and Dyer say competition for the funds, since the stimulus is directed at the country as a whole, will be fierce, especially since the funds aren’t currently earmarked. However, both acknowledged that even if the full costs of projects aren’t incurred by stimulus funds, if any are received, the respective projects could be done in sections as funds are made available.

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