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August 20 • 03:23 PM
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Road crews pass the salt


Cost on the rise but supplies are plentiful for the time being


December 03, 2008
LAPEER COUNTY — County Road Commission crews were primed and ready to roll when the season's first heavy snowfall hit on Sunday. Road commission engineer Rick Pearson said about 3-5 inches of snow fell over a 24-hour period, covering the county's approximately 1,500 miles of roadway.

"We had our crews out at 3 p.m. when the snow started on Sunday," said Pearson. "The guys were out about eight hours until 11 p.m. and then went back out again around 3 a.m. on Monday."

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Wet snow and decreasing temperatures make for sloppy road conditions on M-53 in Imlay City. Lapeer County and municipal road crews responded quickly to Sunday’s winter storm, and by Monday morning, most main roads had been cleared of snow. photo by Tom Wearing.

Pearson said road maintenance crews concentrated primarily on plowing and keeping roads navigable, while dropping salt with discretion.

"We salted on a limited basis," said Pearson, noting that the cost of road salt is up 50 percent from last year. "We're paying $45 a ton for salt, compared to $30 a ton last year. We've already spent a half-million dollars."

Although the county's salt barns are well-stocked and future orders have been reserved, Pearson is aware that another severe winter could present supply problems.

"The word 'shortage' is already being rumored," said Pearson. "We get our salt from Goderich, Ontario. They barge the material down the river to Detroit and then it's trucked up here."

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Pearson said the county budgets for salt based on a five-year average of usage. A major winter storm or two could deplete supplies prematurely.

"Right now our barns are full," he said. "We're at about the same pace as last year. If we get hit with a big storm like the one last year, I would be concerned."

Pearson said recent lower fuel costs have been welcome, and the road commission is financially within its budget. That includes an emergency fund to cover necessary overtime hours for road crews.

"We're not in a financial crunch," he noted. "But a bad season could force us to dip into that fund."

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