With $60.9 million funneling down from the state for road maintenance across Michigan following a long and treacherous winter, one might think massive repair projects are on this spring’s agenda.
But officials are saying not so fast.
The winter season, which saw frigid temperatures and near-record amounts of snow, stretched road maintenance budgets so thin, the hundreds of thousands of dollars on its way to Ionia and Montcalm counties won’t even cover the ballooned cost.
“We went about $700,000 over our winter budget,” said Mark Christensen, superintendent for the Road Commission of Montcalm County, which was given a little more than $350,000 of the statewide funding. “It made up for about half of our winter overrun. That money was spent long before it got here.”
Ionia County, which will receive around $294,000, is in the same situation.
“We’re more than half a million dollars over budget for the winter. This is the highest number we’ve seen in my 22 years. It blew the socks off of everything,” said Dorothy Pohl, managing director of the Ionia County Road Commission. “So $290,000 will help offset the cost of winter.”
The funding, while appreciated, just isn’t enough, officials say.
“The funding has been a big shot in the arm for the road commission, but it isn’t going to give us all the funds to repair the entire system,” Christensen said. “I wouldn’t expect any huge projects.”
In addition to funding for counties, cities and villages across Michigan also got a piece of the funding pie.
Greenville will receive a little less than $39,000 for road work, an amount new Public Services Director Tom Pollock said won’t accomplish much. Instead of repaving roads or launching large repair projects, agencies will instead be mostly limited to patchwork.
“That’s going to be just a lot of patchwork; $39,000 for street repair doesn’t go a long way,” Pollock said. “Hopefully this will allow us to get a good patch in, where it’s not a return issue.”
What the funding will help with is allowing departments to continue spring services, such as roadside mowing, line painting and gravel road maintenance.
“It will just make us function more effectively,” Christensen said. “Customers shouldn’t notice a reduction in services this summer.”
While most of the snow is gone, winter hasn’t completely left. Officials are waiting on pins and needles on how roads will hold up when the ground completely thaws, which hasn’t happened yet.
“Winter is still in the roads,” Pohl said. “There is definitely still frost in the roads.”
The melting snow revealed roads with serious potholes already, and Christensen said as the freeze thaws, it could crumble them more.
“I think maybe the worst is yet to come, because the frost isn’t complete,” he said.
The costs associated with winter may not be through, but with spring inching closer with higher temperatures, officials have their fingers crossed.
“I’m cautiously optimistic,” Christensen said.