Hamtramck residents tackle city’s bumpy roads

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Some Hamtramck residents are so sick of the city’s potholes, they’ve stepped in to fill the gap.

The newly formed Hamtramck Guerrilla Road Repair, launched with the crews’ own funds, decided to tackle crumbling streets across the financially struggling city. The volunteers started filling in potholes Saturday on Lumpkin and they plan on repairs to other side streets this weekend and next, said Maritza Garibay, a crew member.

The group started a GoFundMe page to raise money for more patching. The goal is $5,000 and about $900 had been raised by early Tuesday.

“We’re all just concerned citizens who care about the city and want to help,” Garibay said.

The effort roared to life last week, when she and friends were hanging out and returned to an oft-discussed topic among locals: potholes and deteriorating thoroughfares.

“We understand that the city can only do so much as far as repairs to our roads because we only have so much funding to take care of that,” said Garibay, a teacher who has lived there for several years.

The friends learned that one of them could secure cold patch to plug the holes, she said.

Jonathan Weier, 32, also part of the group, made sure the efforts wouldn’t conflict with the city’s plans for roadwork. He said officials “gave us their goodwill blessing.”

“... There just isn’t money to cover all of these residential streets,” he said.

Mayor Karen Majewski said the city, like other communities across Michigan, receives a certain amount of money from the state for road repairs, so projects must be prioritized. This year, tending to the streets used as fire routes was high on the list, she said. “That’s where the money is going.”

The city has faced money struggles in recent years. In December, the state announced a financial emergency had been resolved and the city would be under a transition board. It was the second time in 14 years Hamtramck emerged from a fiscal crisis.

The city’s pothole repairs are ongoing “and a lot of our side streets need attention,” Majewski said.

That’s when the tools came out. On Saturday, the repair crew descended on Lumpkin near Caniff with gloves, tamping tools and some 900 pounds of cold patch, Garibay said.

“There are several streets like it throughout the city, but it’s an example of one of the worst,” she said, adding crew members have spent hundreds of dollars on auto repairs because of the condition of the streets. “There’s absolutely no way you could drive down the center of the road.”

For now, the crew is paying for the patching. “We kind of got sick of being part of a complaining constituency instead of being an active constituency,” Weier said. “We don’t have any political attitude. We’re willing to do it if people aren’t.”

Majewski said other residents have pursued their own patching, including in the 1990s, but “this is just a more organized effort.”

“It’s really exciting,” she said. “That’s really indicative of the community spirit and sense of identity that pervades Hamtramck and always has.”

Hamtramck Guerrilla Road Repair

To help out: http://www.gofundme.com/8r4m7ukx4m