Road commission enjoying mild winter
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ARENAC COUNTY — The mild winter has meant a little bit less work for the county road commission, although Superintendent Blair Dyer said salt use is still on par with previous years.
“It’s been a pretty quiet winter,” Dyer said. “If this continues, we’ll be happy. Most of the storms have missed us. They’ve been going to the south of us or the north of us. Mostly it’s just been a light dusting.”
However, Dyer said, those light dustings still require salt to be put down on the roads.
“You almost work as hard for a little snow as a big snow,” Dyer said. “Bigger storms use the same amount of salt.
He said salt use this year is a little bit less than last year, but still pretty close.
And budget-wise, Dyer said the road commission is surviving.
“It’s getting a bit tight,” he said. “But we’re right where we predicted we would be.”
He said decreases in funding have caused the road commission to have to look for different ways to run the business. Dyer said that in the last five years, the Arenac County Road Commission has lost nearly a half a million dollars.
“That hurts,” he said, adding that the road commission has had to make cuts in construction, as well as many operational changes. But even with the changes, he said the budget is getting tighter and tighter.
“We can only catch up so much,” Dyer said. “You won’t see us out paving primary roads. There’s no money for it.”
He said most of the work the road commission will be doing will be routine maintenance, rather than reconstruction.
Another way Dyer said the road commission is trying to keep up with a shrinking budget is by monitoring its salt use. He said he usually purchases salt a year in advance, estimating what was used in past years.
“We’ve cut back 20 percent from what we were originally using,” Dyer said. “That’s a lot because the guys are more cautious in how much they use.”
He said some of the newer trucks have a computer system that can adjust how much salt is being used. But other changes have been made as well.
“We use a lot more sand,” Dyer said. “We pay $54 a ton for salt right now.”
Dyer said at the beginning of the season that he expected to go through 6,500 tons of salt this year. He said sand, which is already mixed with salt, costs just $19 a ton.
“It’s a whole lot cheaper,” Dyer said. “If we can get by with it, we’re going to use it.”
He said using less salt and more sand is just one of the ways the road commission is changing its operation.
“I’m running out of ideas,” he said.
Dyer said he is also currently planning a couple of bridge projects which will take place this summer. Two bridges on Arenac State Road — over the Rifle River and Pine River — will see deck replacements. Dyer said the plan is to complete both projects at the same time, so there will only be one detour for residents to deal with. He said the two projects will cost more than $1 million.