Last winter's harsh weather forced communities across Michigan to use more salt and fill more potholes than is typically the case. This left less money available for roadwork, and the problems are expected to linger.
Before the first snowflake falls, 170 to 175 gravel trains of salt will rumble into Washtenaw County Road Commission barns in Scio Township, Manchester, Chelsea, and Pittsfield Township. The 8,600 tons are more than typically needed, but it's the price that's really hurting the county.
Road Commission Operations Director Jim Harmon says they will pay $500,000 to $600,000 more than expected for salt this year. That's largely because the price more than doubled from last year. Harmon says they can't balance out higher salt prices by cuts to other winter services. "Patching's got to be done, those are routine maintenance activities. We will perform our winter maintenance responsibilities. We will patch the potholes on both the paved and unpaved roads," he says.
Harmon is afraid this means they will have about half a million dollars less to do roadwork next summer. He says with the salt prices up across the region, officials with every road commission and public works department are hoping for a milder winter than last year.