City Approves Issuing $7.8 Million In Bonds
By Beth Milligan | Sept. 18, 2018
Traverse City commissioners Monday unanimously approved issuing up to $7.8 million in bonds for city projects.
The issued bonds would include up to $4.5 million for a citywide sidewalk project and $3.2 million for the completion of the Boardman Lake Trail, plus interest and fees. The sidewalk project calls for completing over 115,000 feet of needed sidewalk gap infill and repairs throughout the city in just a few years’ time, rather than over a decade or more. The project also calls for constructing nearly 70,000 feet of new sidewalk in the city – including adding more than 48,000 feet of sidewalk to Traverse Heights neighborhood – and repairing 15,000 feet of sidewalk rated as being in "poor" or "very poor" condition. Construction work is already underway on that last project and is expected to be completed by the end of the 2019 season.
While Commissioners Brian McGillivary and Richard Lewis had previously expressed skepticism about aspects of the sidewalk project, both supported the bond proposal Monday. McGillivary emphasized he’d like to see that city funds normally set aside in the budget each year for sidewalk repairs – an amount that has averaged in the $300,000 range – continue to be included in the budget, noting there were still many neighborhoods with sidewalks needing attention outside of those outlined in the bonded sidewalk plan. Several commissioners expressed their support of McGillivary’s recommendation.
Lewis said he still believed year-to-year spending would be a better approach to tackling the city’s sidewalks than bonding the project upfront, but said he wouldn’t stand in the way of the proposal. “I came to the conclusion that would just be a waste of my time and breath,” he said, acknowledging it seemed likely the motion had the five affirmative votes needed on the commission to pass. “I’m at that point…I’m going to reluctantly support this and move it forward.”
Commissioners Monday also approved a policy outlining how funds from a recent citywide tax hike will be spent on sidewalk and street repairs. The tax increase, approved by the board in June, raised the city’s millage rate by 1 mill from 11.1167 to 12.1167 – a move expected to generate approximately $867,000 in additional revenue its first year. The approved policy for spending those funds lists as a first priority paying the annual bond payment for the citywide sidewalk project, as a second priority paying for the completion of Eighth Street, and as a third priority paying for street improvements outlined in the city’s capital improvement plan.
Finally, the board approved a $479,515 contract with Gourdie Fraser for engineering services for the reconstruction of Eighth Street. The firm was one of five that bid for the project and came in the middle of the pack pricing-wise, with bids ranging from $309,970 to $717,375. Though Gourdie Fraser wasn’t the cheapest option, City Engineer Tim Lodge recommended the firm because representatives attended city study sessions about the Eighth Street project and demonstrated in their bid materials they understood the complicated project scope, including the need to plan for driveway closures along Eighth Street.