A Few Minutes With: Kelly Smith, Road Commission Director
Well, here it is the middle of November and it's sunny and 65 degrees, if I didn’t know better I would think I woke up in another more southerly state. Then I check the weekend forecast and nope, back to reality it is.
As sure as I am going to eat too much at Thanksgiving dinner, we will have winter and we will most likely pay for the awesome weather we have been blessed with so far this fall.
So if you are still reading my ramblings, I do have some pertinent information to pass along regarding the upcoming season and...
...how we will try our best to keep you moving as the white fluffy stuff falls from the sky ( notice I didn’t say the S word).
First of all, in June of 2016 Governor Snyder signed into law PA 161, allowing state and local road agencies to equip roadway maintenance vehicles with Green flashing lights to go along with the amber we currently use.
Why green? While my wife disagrees with the professionals and thinks we should use pink because “it’s pretty”, we are told that due to the makeup of the eye and the wavelength of the color green it will appear to be much brighter than other colors in use. And by also only allowing state and local agencies to use it, we can be distinguished from the private sector therefore eliminating some confusion at times. We are in the process of the changeover that will most likely be accomplished by the first of the year.
On a positive note, we have seen a decline in salt prices for the second consecutive year; we are now in the $40.00 a ton range which is near the same prices as 2011. This is a significant drop from the high of $82.00 a ton in 2014. This will hopefully allow us to move some of our winter maintenance funds to summer projects which we all know there are many of our over 1400 miles of county road that could use more attention in some form or another.
Another positive note, fuel prices have remained pretty steady as well, and this is a tremendous help due to the fact that our fleet’s fuel mileage falls a little short of a Prius. We are talking as low as 1-3 miles per gallon when pushing wet heavy snow with both the underbody blade and the wing.
We are currently stocked with 25,000 tons of winter sand between our White Cloud and Newaygo facilities and have reserves of almost 10,000 ton of salt. We have begun the process of changing or truck fleet over from summer mode to winter with the installation of the sanding and blading equipment and will continue that process as weather dictates. We do not do a fleet wide changeover as we need to have the ability to haul gravel if the weather allows us to do so.
Beginning the 21st of November will start our 24 hour a day, 7 day a week patrol schedule allowing us to provide a level of service to our customers necessary to keep them moving. Now a little disclaimer here, that does not mean we will be catching the snow/ice before it hits the road, and no, they will not be bare and dry all the time. But we will work very hard at making it possible to get you where you are going all the while keeping in mind that this is Michigan and the cost to keeping surfaces at “summer” like conditions is just not possible. This is a very brief view of what we do to get “winter” ready, just a few highlights.
Also, please follow us on Facebook as we are trying to step up our presence there to help keep you informed on changing road conditions, projects and upcoming events, we might even throw a funny cat or dog video in now and then. Things you can do to help us, please check your mailboxes for condition, plastic boxes (horrible idea in Michigan), boxes that are duct taped on a post and rotten posts are just a few things that will surely lead to mail in the snow. And yes, I know we can and have knocked down fairly sturdy ones too.
Believe me, we take that seriously as we know that mail is important and they do their best in trying to not hit them all the while trying to get close enough that you don’t have to shovel them out. And they must do this at a speed that allows them to get over their area in a timely fashion so that roads are clear for travel. Please also keep in mind they go by several hundred of them a day and we will occasionally get one.
Plowing snow across the roadway is illegal but still has reached epidemic proportion the last few years. We are working on ways to help inform our customers on the negative impact this has on our drivers and equipment as well possible accidents it can cause, so please be careful when considering where to put the snow at the end of your drives.
We certainly know the trials and tribulations of winter for you all, we live it as well and we are here to serve the citizens of Newaygo County and those that travel through it to the best of our ability. Most of all please know we want/need your phone calls regarding road conditions, we simply cannot be everywhere all the time and any help we get in identifying possible problem areas is greatly appreciated.
Be safe and give us room to groom when possible.
Editor’s Note: Have a question about your roads and the work of our Road Commission?
Send it our way and we’ll pass it on to Mr. Smith to respond in our pages.
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