As we look back on 2019 it seems as though a common theme would be “the weather”, and its extremes. Some notable sayings relative to the most recent weather pattern could be, “nice weather…. For a duck”. Or, “maybe we should build an ark?” There are some more “colorful” anecdotes, but you get the point.
Let me start by saying, “Sorry” to those that live on or drive down our gravel/dirt roads, they have been a nightmare this season. We endured a record setting amount of rainfall and that has made it challenging to say the least, but we are still working on them when conditions allow.
January started with the continued theme in the form of freezing rain that quickly transitioned into an all-out wet snow which was the beginning of a lengthy snowy chain of events. And that pattern continued through the months of February and the middle of March, and that is when the thoughts of gathering the animals 2 by 2 and texting Noah about constructing an ocean liner class vessel came to mind.
The middle of March brought an event of epic proportion to the area, 7 inches of rain coupled with a large snow melt and frozen ground was a recipe for disaster. Culverts and ditches were just not able to keep up, we lost several culvert crossings, had several areas of flooded roadway and miles of ponding water on surfaces. We spent the next several weeks attempting to repair some of the destruction while still fighting snow and ice events. We were also handicapped by the inability of finding suitable aggregate, it was either frozen or soup.
We are still seeing the after effects of those events in the form of failed culverts and blocked water waterways from debris, it also took a huge toll on the budget as well a major setback in our construction schedule. We were realistically 3 months behind all summer, and with a completely booked season in place there was a large task at hand. When we were finally able to begin the construction season we were faced with $4,200,000.00 in township projects on the books. That would be a massive undertaking in a normal 8 month construction season, but we were going to be lucky if we could get in 5 decent months at best.
And I must point out, we have some incredible townships in our county, as they supplement the road system substantially, and while we all can agree we have a ways to go yet, I can assure you without their support the system would be much worse off.
We also witnessed what seemed to be the never-ending saga of Colonial Bridge finally come to fruition in mid-late July. I could write a book on this project, it was almost 10 years in the making and was filled with more twists and turns than the new striping in Newaygo, but that’s another story for another day. As we progressed through the summer months (or more commonly known as “Orange Barrel Season”) the staff and crews were really making progress, and I’d like to give a huge shout out to the women and men of NCRC. They are an awesome group to work for, they care and they really want to provide a safe and efficient road system and I do believe if given a fair shot with workable weather conditions they will succeed in doing so. Even with the shortened and sometimes “not so friendly” working conditions, they managed to complete just over $3,000,000.00 in township projects. So we will begin next season where we left off and hope for a longer and friendlier weather pattern.
Fall began just about like every other season in 2019, overly damp. With ground water near or above the surface everywhere, swamps, ditches, streams, rivers and lakes over capacity and does not take much rainfall to create havoc. Nothing is soaking in and not much evaporation is going on, so we are back to ducks on a boat. During this time we endured a few wind and rain events that were minor setbacks, but our real issue has been the condition of the unpaved system, it has been horrific at times. There really is not much to be made with mud, except for more mud and nobody wants that. We have at times made attempts to grade when we probably shouldn’t have knowing the probable outcome would be less than stellar, but we were desperate to get you some relief from what was either a mud run or something that resembled a minefield. Our apologies again, and we have not given up. We had an early December ice storm that transitioned into a snow event that not only dumped some wet heavy snow to scrape, it also really took a toll on trees and that clean up really slowed our progress. Every single road had some debris that needed attention, and some needed cleared of trees before we could begin to scrape the snow. Another notable mention, Thank You to the first responders and utility companies and their support services for the aid during that event. They really were a blessing with all the help on downed trees and powerlines.
That is a very brief synopsis of our year, we are glad it is behind us as we were not able to provide as many improvements to the system as we’d hoped due to being in a constant state of repair.
As we roll through the Holidays The Board, staff and myself hope you had a wonderful Christmas and wish you all a safe and Happy New Year.