Tri-County Road Budgets In Jeopardy After Grueling Winter
LANSING (WWJ/AP) - Michigan counties are nervously watching as their road maintenance budgets are depleted because this winter’s weather has been far nastier than usual.
The County Road Association of Michigan says local agencies are rapidly spending their road maintenance budgets and it could leave less for much-needed repairs in the summer.
Counties are responsible for maintaining most local roads across Michigan, besides highways. Officials say with at least six weeks of winter left, 2014 will be remembered as an expensive one for road plowing amid heavy snow and single-digit temperatures.
Macomb County has melted away roughly 80 percent of their road budget, but county executive Mark Hackel said the plows will stay on the roads, one way or another.
“There is no other option. You don’t just sit back and say ‘OK, let’s not salt, let’s not plow because it’s costing us too much in overtime. Just let everyone suffer.’ That’s not happening here in Macomb County, we will find a way,” Hackel said. “We will go back for the additional funding or adjustments as necessary.”
In Wayne County, the road commission has spent nearly their entire winter budget over just a few months.
“Our average on snow and ice over the past five years has been $8.2 million that we spent in the winter,” said spokesperson Cindy Dingell. “We’re not even half way through yet and we’re up to about $7 million right now, but we’re OK on our budget. We’re just praying that some things let up and give us a little bit of a break.”
The road commission in Oakland County is doing their best to keep up with demands, but spokesman Craig Bryson said his crews are being stretched to the brink.
“January, in and of itself, was far more expensive than we expected. We’ve got people who have racked up huge amounts of overtime,” Bryson said. “Some people were working 90 hours a week, you know, for several consecutive weeks. It’s grueling and it’s really causing a large amount of fatigue. So, we’re having to kind of space out our troops. We don’t want to run out of people before we get to the end of this.”
Bryson said cutbacks will have to be made if the county goes over their budget, although essential services will be spared.
“We’ll do just less of some activities in the spring and summer then. Safety related activities won’t be touched but things that are aesthetic related, such as grass mowing, tree trimming, litter cleanup, those types of things would undoubtedly be cut further than they already have,” he said.
Michigan’s 83 county road agencies have been urging lawmakers to boost funding for transportation. Gov. Rick Snyder’s plan to raise gasoline taxes is stalled, but counties are hopeful legislators will commit some of projected budget surplus to temporarily increase road funding.
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