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Trip To Lansing Secures Additional State Aid

Good news came earlier than expected for municipalities in Houghton County who have been seeking state aid to help fund road repairs.

The governor’s decision to have the state pay the required FEMA match for Houghton County is believed to be a result from a recent trip to Lansing from local officials.

In recent days, Houghton and Hancock city managers Glen Anderson and Eric Waara, along with Houghton County Road Engineer Kevin Harju,, met with legislators in Lansing to ask for state assistance with road repairs, but didn’t expect an answer until December.

“We took a trip down to Lansing to plead our case and the dire need for the match moneys and we met with key people there with the governor’s office and I think that helped to show what the need was—going forward and doing the repairs and at the same time looking for the money to pay that match because we need to repair the roads,” said Harju.

Current damage estimates to Houghton County roads are around $30 million and FEMA has agreed to fund eligible repairs, but local agencies are required to pay 25 percent of the costs.

In early September, Governor Snyder authorized the state to pay for half of that figure, but after hearing from legislators who met with Waara, Anderson, and Harju, Snyder says that the state will pick up the full tab based on the impact that the expense would have on local governments.

“I think that’s what expedited it. The message was heard from everyone in Lansing and the governor had the ability to authorize the additional 12.5 percent for match monies,” said Harju.

In normal situations, that money would come from the annual budgets of both cities and the county road commission, but due to the magnitude of the damage caused by the flash floods of June, none of the three agencies have those dollars available.

Some of the repairs will carry over into next spring and summer, but a good portion will be completed before winter.

Harju said, “We hope to have about $15 million of the $30 million of damage repaired before winter. We’re really pushing the construction season into the beginning of December.”

Meanwhile, the agencies work diligently to get as much completed before winter. One road that the county road commission is currently tackling is Canal Road, and the agency asks people to stay clear of that and other construction sites if possible.

“If you don’t have to go through a construction zone that has barricades across the road, please don’t go there. It slows down construction and it’s not really safe. It’s open to the residents so they can get into their homes and for emergency personnel but we’re trying to limit that especially like in the Houghton Canal area and up at the Airport Park Road,” Harju said.

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