by ELENA DURNBAUGH
Macomb Township Supervisor Janet Dunn emphasized the growing population of Macomb in her State of the Township address last Friday, which was attended by local and state elected officials including Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel and State Representative Jeff Yaroch.
During her speech, Dunn highlighted growth in Macomb Township. She said that it was the state’s fastest growing township in single family housing for the past three years. In 2018, Macomb Township granted over 500 housing permits, and the population has increased by 11.5 percent since 2010. Macomb Township has experienced the biggest population growth in county, Dunn said.
According to Dunn, a bigger population drove several changes in Macomb Township last year.
New voting precincts were added and other precincts were altered to comply with the number of voters allowed in each precinct. The fire station also increased the number of full-time staff, and an additional police liaison was added for the Chippewa Valley School District.
Dunn said that she expected growth and building to continue in 2019.
During her address, the township supervisor also discussed construction projects underway. A new fire substation is currently being constructed on 23 Mile Road. Groundbreaking has also just begun for the new north branch of the Clinton-Macomb Public Library. The new library, which will be on Broughton Road, is expected to open in fall 2020. She also discussed the construction project to widen 23 Mile Road, acknowledging the inconvenience for drivers and recommending they avoid the area near North Avenue if possible.
Although Dunn said that the business of governance in Macomb Township was often very routine, she emphasized that the best way to get things done could be unclear.
“Sometimes, requests or issues don’t have a quick answer unless you have a crystal ball,” Dunn said.
Dunn briefly recognized the newest member of the Macomb Township Board of Trustees, Kathy Smith. In December, Smith was appointed by the board to fill the vacancy left by Trustee Dino Bucci, who was indicted by a federal grand jury in 2017 and officially resigned last November. Dunn did not address any of that turmoil specifically, but at the end of her speech, she thanked the board of trustees for their support.
“Thanks to the township board for making the right decisions so I can get up here and tell about the great things happening in Macomb Township,” she said.
Following Dunn, other local leaders took the opportunity to make a statement. State Representative Jeff Yaroch took time to acknowledge the upheaval with the Board of Trustees during his speech. He said that many people in Lansing had not forgotten the state’s failure to intervene, and he said it was something he wanted to work to fix for the future.
“We take things that didn’t go right, and let’s continue to move forward,” he said.
Yaroch also used the opportunity to express his opposition to the 45 cent gas tax recently proposed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer. He said that instead of new taxes, the state should be looking at enacting the road plan passed in 2015. He also argued that the condition Michigan’s roads were a hindrance to economic development and said that the state’s economic development fund should be audited. Yaroch said that Michigan spent $10 million on arts and culture last year, and that state had to consider the kinds of returns it was getting on its investments.
“If you blow out your tire on the way to the museum, you’re not going to have a good time looking at art that day,” Yaroch said. “It’s about needs and wants… Roads are needs.”
Finally, Yaroch said that he was recommending that the state allow townships to oversee their own roads so that they can get money directly from the state instead of having to go through the county. According to Yaroch, this would allow for more planning and maintenance.
“I believe in giving more tools to local government to do a better job,” Yaroch said.
Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel also talked about roads. He said that although he would support legislation that gave local bodies control over their roads, changing who was responsible for them wouldn’t fix the problem and the current conversation in Lansing wasn’t getting anywhere.
According to Hackel, $77 million is need to fix the roads in Macomb Township alone. In 2021, the township will receive $8.5 million in road funding. At that rate, he said, it would take nearly ten years to fix today’s problems.
“It is an impossible task, folks,” Hackel said. “The reality is we can no longer deny the fact that we need more revenue.”
Both Hackel and Yaroch said they would continue to work with local leaders to address the problem because they said roads are the No. 1 issue they hear about from residents.
The next Macomb Township Board of Trustees meeting is Wednesday, March 27, at 7 p.m. in the Township Hall Board Room.