Dramatic winter weather keeping Road Commission busy


By Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 10:01 am on Friday, January 31, 2014

 

STANTON — Road commissions throughout Michigan have been going through winter budget revenue in rapid fashion, and the Road Commission for Montcalm County is no exception.

Managing Director Mark Christensen said he won’t have an updated winter budget estimate until sometime in February. In the meantime, he plans to continue doing business as usual unless he hears otherwise at the next Road Commission board meeting, which is scheduled for one week from today in Stanton.

Mark Christensen

“We’ve spent a lot of money,” Christensen said. “A huge amount of revenue has been expended for winter maintenance. It’s still our No. 1 priority and we’re going to continue to provide it at whatever level we can provide.”

Montcalm County road commission trucks were out and about from 7 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. At that point, with 90 percent of county roads cleared, drivers stopped for the night, as the wind was picking up speed while darkness fell.

“With the winds that were blowing, nighttime plowing is not what I would call sensible,” Christensen said. “We’ve also got to think of the safety of our employees. Winds and nighttime plowing don’t go together.”

Christensen said the hardest hit areas of the county include Howard City, Edmore, Trufant and McBride, as well as Belvidere, Day, Home, Maple Valley, Pierson and Winfield townships.

“Anyplace with large open fields has drifting issues across the roads,” he noted.

Road commission drivers aren’t immune from the problems regular motorists have been facing amid this winter’s rather dramatic weather.

“We’ve gotten stuck somewhere every day,” Christensen said. “We’ve had our issues, but nothing that we haven’t worked through.”

Members of the County Road Association in Lansing have been urging state legislators and Gov. Rick Snyder to increase funds for Michigan’s roads, including directing surplus revenue from 2013-2014 and developing a more permanent funding solution.

“There’s no question that our county road workers will get the roads clear, even plowing them multiple times a day as the wind blows snow right back into the roadways,” said Denise Donohue, director of the County Road Association of Michigan. “But at the same time, this hard winter has road agencies from southern Michigan to the Keweenaw Peninsula rapidly spending their maintenance budgets.

“When the counties’ maintenance funds are depleted in winter, they simply aren’t available for badly-needed road preservation and maintenance projects in the summer,” she said.

The County Road Association reminds motorists to leave room on the roads for working snowplows and avoid driving until roads are clear, if possible.

“We’re working hard and doing the best we can with the revenue and resources that we have,” Christensen said. “We’ve got to make sure we have enough funding to provide services between now and spring.”

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