Legislation will allow road commission to replace outdated facility
State Rep. Greg Markkanen’s plan to help the Keweenaw County Road Commission move forward with a proposal to replace its outdated maintenance facility has been sent to the governor for her consideration.
Markkanen, of Hancock, said the local road commission has run into problems because of the 103-year-old building that currently serves as its maintenance facility. A 2016 building inspection uncovered numerous “red flags” with the building’s electrical, mechanical and HVAC systems as well as the structural integrity of the building itself.
“As equipment has gotten larger, many of the vehicles no longer fit inside the building – which means repairs have to be made outside,” Markkanen said. “Considering how treacherous U.P. winters can be, this has been detrimental to their operations.”
Keweenaw County Road Commission Engineer Gregg Patrick discussed the situation with the House Transportation Committee earlier this year via Skype.
Remodeling the facility to fit the road commission’s needs would cost an estimated $1.8 million. A new structure, with added office space, could be built for $1.5 million. The biggest obstacle standing in the way is a 1909 law that requires county road commissions – when purchasing property for public use – to limit the payments to 15 years or less. Other municipal units can finance such payments over 30 years.
Markkanen introduced House Bill 4120 to give road commissions in rural counties more flexibility. His plan would double the timeframe, allowing rural road commissions up to 30 years to complete purchases.
“This extended installment period will help rural counties gain access to financing that would otherwise be too costly when financed over a 15-year period,” Markkanen said. “It will allow the Keweenaw County Road Commission to make much needed improvements to its maintenance barn while continuing to invest more into repairing our roads.”
The plan received bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.