MENOMINEE - Voters in Menominee will go to the polls May 7 to decide whether to fund street repairs for the next 10 years. The city's last street improvement bond is coming to a close with this summer's 14th Avenue improvement project. Some 23 miles of road are expected to be repaired or replaced over the next decade.

"This is really the only way a community can go and make large scale improvements and maintain the structure of the road network," said City Manager Michael Cramer.

The state does give the city a small share of money from the gas tax, but those funds are also used for signs, marking and signals.

"We aren't able to go do wholesale renovation and rehab on a street for the dollars they give us for that," Cramer added.

City Engineer Valerie Mellon has already prepared a list of projects, both street and sidewalk, that are likely candidates for the next round of bond funding. Creating the list involves inspecting the roads and rating each one accordingly.

Mellon said one of the secrets to long term road care is to catch problems early, seal the surface and put small amounts of money into rehabilitation. That way costly total reconstruction can be averted.

"What we'd like to do is change the way people are spending that tax investment," she said. "Change the plan of how we attack the problem. Instead of worst first, instead of waiting until the road crumbles to the point where it's so bad you have to fix it, let's invest a small amount of money area wide to seal up the surface to preserve the life of those pavements as long as possible."

Cramer and Mellon are on a crusade of sorts to get the information out to voters, including talking to local civic groups and putting the ballot language and proposed maps of work areas on the city's website. City leaders feel that it's imperative the bond passes.

"Without having these types of ballot initiatives and this type of funding stream, it's almost impossible for a small community to go out and fund road improvements themselves," said Cramer.

If the bond fails, Mellon said there will literally be many rough roads ahead for the city.

"Then we'll continue doing what we're doing, which is patching pot holes, crack sealing whatever we can with a limited budget and the roads will continue to worsen."

The city had been without an engineer for several years and Mellon is just a few months into the job, but according to Cramer having a full-time engineer on staff is already starting to show signs of paying off.

"With Val here, it's made it so instead of focusing on a few areas, we now can focus on the entire transportation system and make improvements for the long term," he said.

Cramer and Mellon said city crews will also be utilized on more ambitious projects which will save even more money in the long run.

Street bond proposal