Road Commission for Montcalm County History
On June 16, 1919, a vote was held in Montcalm County, Michigan on the question of adopting a County Road System. The citizens of the county voted 1,653, in favor, to 327, opposed. The Board of Supervisors appointed three Commissioners: Bryant E. Avery, Howard City; Ensign B. Stebbins, Carson City; and John J. Bale Sr., Lakeview, as the first Road Commission Board. Alfred L. Stearns acted as Clerk of the Commission. The first meeting of the Board of County Road Commissioners of the County of Montcalm, was held at the Phelps Hotel in the City of Greenville on July 29, 1919, for the purpose of organizing. Mr. Avery was appointed as the first Chairman.
Today the Board of County Road Commissioners still remains a three-member board; however in 1985, the Board became elected rather than appointed. Each Board member is elected to a six-year term. The current Board members are: Dale J. Linton, Greenville; Michael Scott, Howard City; and Robert L. Brundage, Stanton.
Mr. Jesse S. Walker, a farmer and Township Overseer, of the Township of Bloomer, was hired as the first Road Superintendent.
The position of Superintendent, as it was known in 1919, is now Managing Director, which is held by Mark Christensen, a resident of Sidney Township. Kim Alexander, of Reynolds Township, is the Finance Director and Clerk of the Board.
On October 14, 1919, the Board of Supervisors adopted the proposed County Trunk Line System as submitted by the Road Commission. The system totaled approximately 135 miles of roads. The minutes do not describe the location and a map is not available of the first County Road System. By the close of the year of 1930, the Montcalm County Road Commission had under its jurisdiction 188 1/2 miles of roads. The McNitt-Holbeck-Smith Act, Public Act 130, required that the Road Commission take over jurisdiction of the Township Roads over a five-year period, 20 per cent each year, with the first beginning March 1932. On that date the first 20 per cent of the Township Roads became the responsibility of the Road Commission. Each year that followed another 20 per cent was transferred until the road system consisted of approximately 1,600 miles of roads. In May, 1940, the Board of County Road Commissioners and the Township Board of Bloomer Township, met to discuss the building of the roads in Bloomer Township. Bloomer Township agreed to contribute money to the Road Commission for Township road building. This is the first record that can be found of the Townships and the Road Commission entering into joint participation. That same year the Road Commission voted to have all the Township Boards in “to discuss the problems of maintenance and improvements.”
Today Montcalm County Road Commission maintains 1,500 miles of primary and local roads. The Road Commission also maintains 160 miles of State Trunkline Roads as the Road Commission is a contract county with the Michigan Department of Transportation. From a work force that was over 100 hourly employees in the mid 1950s, to the current staff of 39 hourly employees, everyone at the Montcalm County Road Commission is dedicated to providing the highest quality roads and bridges for the traveling public by using the most effective manner possible. What all started back in May of 1940 when the Road Commission and Bloomer Township entered into a joint venture to build roads is still today a major factor in how local road improvements are funded throughout Montcalm County. Montcalm County Road Commission has an excellent relationship with all 20 townships within Montcalm County. Each township plays a major role in the improvements that are done on the local road system within their townships.
In October 1936 a report of the gas and weight tax recorded in the minutes shows a total income of $130,000, of which $40,220 was used to pay on bonded debt; $24,780 paid to cities and villages in the county, and the remaining $65,000 budgeted as follows: $38,000 for road maintenance, $20,000 for purchase of new equipment, and $7,000 for the general operating expenses.
Just as in 1936, Montcalm County Road Commission’s main source of funding still comes from the gas and weight tax, which we know as the MTF (Michigan Transportation Fund). The Road Commission receives calls throughout the year from concerned citizens about how much their property taxes have been raised, but they have not noticed any improvements on their road. The Road Commission DOES NOT receive revenue from property taxes.