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Posted: 02/05/14

Heavy winter creating dents
in more than roads

by CHRIS GRAY
Observer Staff Writer
      A record-setting winter is leaving its mark on Macomb County and local budgets, depleting salt supplies and funds faster than previous years.
       The severe weather has also caused the county to take action against dangerous potholes, making a guarantee that the hazards will be quickly addressed when reported.
       Bob Hoepfner, director of the Macomb County Department of Roads, said 80 percent of the $3.9 million winter budget has been spent. He said it is something the department just has to deal with since budgeting for the weather is difficult.
       "At the end of winter we'll add up costs and what impact it'll have on the remainder of our budget," he said.
       Road salt reserves is also a concern for the department. Hoepfner said the supply is constantly replenished, but 41,000 tons of salt have already been spread onto the roads. The average amount used is 50,000 to 60,000 tons.
       "We believe we have a sufficient supply to get through," he said. "If the winter continues at the pace it's going now, it'll be really close."
       The department has a new weapon in its arsenal to battle the winter weather. The Communications and Technology Center (COMTEC) provides real-time video of roads and intersections, giving Hoepfner the chance to direct resources to the areas most in need.
       "With a storm you think it's the same all over the county, but it's not," he said. "For example, sometimes it's heavier in the north end than the south."
       Village of Romeo Clerk Marian McLaughlin said the Romeo Department of Public Works (DPW) has been working around the clock to keep the village streets clear and thawed.
       "I know that we've had a lot of overtime with our snow removal, we've used up a lot of our salt and beet juice," she said. "They're freezing out there doing all the sidewalks and streets."
       The DPW mixes beet juice with the salt so it is more effective in temperatures below 20 degrees. Even so, the village has already used 600 tons of salt.
       The budget receives funding from major street, local street, municipal street, cemetery and routine maintenance funds. Tim Metz, DPW supervisor, said the DPW has gone through a portion of its winter maintenance budget, but believes it won't affect any other projects.
       "We still have our heads above water," he said.
       McLaughlin said exact budget numbers were not available as of Jan. 31.
       The situation is a far cry from the 2011-12 winter, where the village spent about $30,000 less due to the unusually mild season and 250 fewer tons of salt.
       Pothole guarantee
       County roads crew have been charged with addressing dangerous potholes in a timely manner this winter. County Executive Mark Hackel has guaranteed that damage-creating potholes will be assessed and addressed in one hour or less, asking residents to call 911 to report them.
       He said county dispatchers will take the information and pass it along to the Department of Roads to handle the situation and relieve any officers on the scene.
       "We know we're just going to get inundated with potholes this year," Hackel said. "This provides a tremendous opportunity not only to make sure that we're filling these potholes, but to relieve law enforcement of having the burden or responsibility of protecting that dangerous situation."
       County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said the 911 calls should be placed if a pothole is causing damage to vehicles or is forcing vehicles to take evasive action that could lead to an accident.
       "It's just like if for some reason a chair falls off a truck and the people keep on driving, the Department of Roads is supposed to keep it clear, but people call 911," he said.
       To report non-hazardous potholes, call the Department of Roads at (586) 463-8671.


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Retrieved 4/25/2014 at 1:30:50 AM.
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