Potter Hill Road project may be able to obtain USDA-RD assistance

ALPENA -The Potter Hill Road project is continuing to move forward as information was obtained Friday about acquiring funds that could allow for the access road that would run from Bagley Street and end on M-32 to be built.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture-Rural Development can provide loans to the township that would use a special assessment to property owners along the new road to cover the cost of the loan payment.

Preliminary cost estimates show that the Class A road would cost about $2.5 million to be built and another $1 million or so to have water and server infrastructure installed. Valarie Handy, the area specialist for the USDA, attended the meeting Friday and said there are two different loan types available, and each would cover a different aspect of the job.

There is a USDA Water and Environmental Loan that is a low-interest 40-year loan that could be used for the water and sewer portion of the project, while a separate loan from the Communities Facilities Program would loan the money for the road over 20 years. In order to pay for the two loans, the special assessment would have to generate approximately $237,470 a year.

Handy said a detailed work plan needs to be in place with the loan application, as well as environmental approval from the Michigan Department of Transportation, before the request can be processed and ultimately approved. After looking at the plan, and listening to why the road is needed, Handy said she believes the loan has a good chance going through.

“Survey and design needs to be done before we can bid the project, and the bidding has to be done before we can close on the loan,” Handy said. “I think it is a good plan and the turn-around should be quick. I’m confident we would be able to do this.”

Although the loans appear to be a safe bet, other options for funding still are being sought. Township Supervisor Marie Twite and property owner Jim Townsend intend to talk to representatives in Lansing and Washington to see if they can use their connections to get some amount of money toward the project.

Twite is going to compile a list of the property owners who would be affected by the assessment and once a solid number for construction cost is available, they will be contacted for input, or a special meeting will be held to discuss the matter. Townsend said most, if not all, of the land owners with property along the path of the new round are in agreement to pay the special tax to have the road built, but it would be wise to double check.

“We have to talk to everyone of those property owners to make sure we are all on the same page and if that’s the case and everyone says yes, we can begin to move forward with the loan process,” he said. “We can’t take that step yet, however, until we know we still have everybody on board.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review … at www.thealpenanews.com.