HOUGHTON COUNTY, Mich. (WJMN) — Local road projects have been placed on hold due to funding being tied up in COVID-19 relief.
“We could probably complete majority of the project this summer, if, we knew for certain, that we have the matching funds available,” said Kevin Hargeo, County Highway Engineer, Houghton County Road Commission
Houghton County Road Commission had been working hard to recover from the damage done by the 2018 Father’s Day Flood.
“We had over 40 million dollars worth of damage just on our system. So, we’ve got about half of it complete, but we have a long way to go with over 20 million to complete. A lot of it is on our local systems, not our primary roads. So, we are hoping to get it done this summer, but with all the financial crisis and COVID crisis going on it can be very trying to accomplish that.”
In need of funds, Houghton County visited Lansing to meet with legislators to show their need for funds. Lansing passed a supplementary bill for 1.4 million dollars as starter money to pay for the match needed, but due to the pandemic, the money was vetoed out of the bill.
“We’ve been working ever since the flood to secure those funds. What we did right away when the flood happened was we secured a 4 million dollar State Infrastructure Bank Loan through MDOT and that’s when working good to keep cash flowing with us, but now we are getting to the point where we need that money to start paying the contractors for this match.”
Hargeo said when the social distancing requirements are lifted, they still will not be able to move forward without the funds.
“If we can’t find the match of the 6 million, 4.5 million of that is just needed for the road commission for over 22 million dollars worth of work.”
80% of the funds needed would come from the Federal Highway Program as the other 20% would be paid by the Houghton County Road Commission.
“Without the match, we cannot utilize the grant moneys.”
The road commission has looked at alternative routes to get the money needed. They are asking for the public’s help with two things.
They suggest calling local legislators to remind them about the need for these funds, and to “be patient we are trying to get these projects completed.”