“It was forty years old, and it was dangerous,” says resident El Weir of the roads in his Scio Township subdivision, Wing Meadows. “I’ve lived here since 1973, and the road was getting really bad. And not just for cars. It was so bad you couldn’t ride a bicycle on it because of the potholes. Kids on bikes would go into one and fall over their handlebars and get hurt.”

Wing Meadows wasn’t alone. “Our road had been beaten into the ground,” remembers Mark Lewis, whose company owns the Ann Arbor Commerce Park on Ellsworth Road in Pittsfield Township. “We’d developed the park ten years ago, but over the years, the roads out there took a substantial beating from the traffic, especially the truck traffic.”

Three years ago, Weir circulated a petition among his neighbors and took it to Scio Township asking to fix the road. But townships don’t maintain roads–so Scio referred him to the Washtenaw County Road Commission. And the WCRC couldn’t afford to repave Wing Meadows–“they spent most of their money filling potholes and moving snow,” Weir says.

It took more than a year, but eventually Weir, township officials, and WCRC engineering director Roy Townsend figured out a solution: a combination of two state laws that lets property owners tax themselves to pay for road work by creating a “special assessment district.”

“I went back to every one of the thirty-two home owners and talked to them in their living room and told them that if we were ever going to have our roads fixed, we’d have to do it ourselves,” Weir says. “Only one or two didn’t sign–the economy fell apart while I was doing this–and seventeen out of thirty-two even paid up front.” The cost was $3,080 each, plus interest for those who paid it in installments on their property taxes.

Wing Meadows and the Ann Arbor Commerce Park were repaved last year. “The [assessment district] process was a breeze,” says Lewis. “I was very pleasantly surprised.”

Lewis was also pleasantly surprised by the price–originally budgeted at $350,000 to $400,000, it came in at “a little less than a quarter million. That’s one of the advantages of a soft economy: contractors will do anything to get work.”

Several other subdivisions already have begun the special assessment process. Scio Hills, a 105-home development in Scio Township, is scheduled to be repaved this summer, while Lodi and Dexter townships are discussing projects.