Crews ready for snow
Hopes are high for less snowy season than recent years
December 16, 2009
TRI-CITY AREA — The Lapeer County Road Commission can't afford to have another winter like last year, says Managing Director Rick Pearson.
The 2008-09 season saw them exceeding their winter maintenance budget by more than $1 million. Overtime hours accounted for a majority of the extra spending. The last two winters have been some of the snowiest on record.
That's why Pearson is clinging to the hope that the National Weather Service's 90 day outlook is correct. The experts tell us to expect above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation.
November passed with barely a trace of snow but a few inches have already fell in December.
"We are ready for the season," said Pearson.
"Our barns are full of salt and our salters are on."
Lapeer County's 18 snowplow trucks and nine graders are also ready to roll if a significant snowfall occurs.
But with the need to reign in overtime costs and a smaller staff, Pearson said residents may see slower response times in service. One employee has retired in the last year and wasn't replaced.
"We're doing what we can to improve efficiency," Pearson said, noting four of their plow trucks are equipped with 'wings' that can simultaneously clear the road and shoulders.
When it comes to gravel roads, Pearson said the county's winter maintenance policy still stands. The roads will only be cleared if we receive four or more inches of snow in a single storm.
When the snow does start to fly, drivers are reminded to give snow plow drivers some room and exercise caution when meeting them on the roads. Flying and blowing snow, especially what's kicked up by the trucks with 'wings' can be a driving hazard.
When it comes to clearing driveways, Pearson asks that homeowners refrain from plowing across the road. Those piles of snow on the sides of the road can harden after freeze and thaw events and cause serious damage to plow trucks or push the trucks into oncoming traffic while plowing.
Pearson said it's best to push snow to the right of a driveway rather than the left. That way a passing snowplow won't blow it back into the entrance.
In St. Clair County, Managing Director Kirk Weston said the road commission is feeling the financial pinch but there budget is already bolstered by a mild fall.
"November was good to us," Weston said.
"Compared to last year, we've already seen a savings around $100,000."
Still, Weston anticipates their response time could be slowed, especially if a substantial storm strikes.
"We just ask the public to be patient with us," Weston said.
"We might not get into the subdivisions as quickly as in the past."
To hopefully prevent too many delays, St. Clair County has brought on some seasonal drivers, Weston said. There are a total of 90 road commission employees, 78 of which can plow. At the Capac garage, which services the western portion of the count and I-69 and M-19, there are 12 employees.
As for salt supplies, they are healthy. As for prices, they are up. St. Clair County paid $9 more per ton this year, Weston said.
While they go about their work, the road commission can offer some early season driving tips for motorists too.
"Especially for this time of year, keep an eye out for black ice early in the morning," Weston said.
Isolated slippery spots are common too considering there's not a lot of salt residue built up on the roads yet, he added.
Weston also encourages residents to notify the road commission of trouble spots or concerns by calling them at (810) 364-5720.
Maria Brown joined the Tri-City Times staff in 2003, the same year she earned a bachelor's degree in English from Calvin College. Born and raised in Imlay City, she now resides north of Capac where she enjoys working on the farm, gardening and reading.