Spring snowstorm nearly doubles road commission expenses


OSCODA COUNTY — Oscoda County Road Commission crews were forced to revert from spring cleanup to snowplowing after spring snowstorms blew through the area and blanketed the county with up to a foot of snow April 3-4.

The isolated event provided an opportunity to Manager Steve Defour to release a cost estimate for the storm, by comparing the expenses the day prior to those the day after.

Defour said the road commission’s average daily expense this time of year is approximately $8,000. As the road commission crews were out clearing roads from the snowstorm for three days, this daily cost was more than doubled, totaling an additional $25,000, mostly from increased fuel, sand and labor costs.

“We used about 1,500 gallons of fuel over the three days,” Defour said. “In the peak of the storm we used 900 gallons.”

On an average day, the road commission consumes approximately 300 gallons of fuel, he said.

“Usually around this time of year we are blading,” Defour said. “(This year) we had all five of our new trucks out, five of our older trucks and two graders clearing snow.”

During his research, Defour determined that around the same time in 2016 the county was hit with two snowstorms only a few days apart. These storms cost the road commission almost exactly what the most recent storm did.

In addition to the increased fuel and labor costs, the road commission experienced two truck breakdowns — one minor and one more serious.

“We had two trucks break down, so the remaining equipment had to absorb the work and do what was needed to get the job completed,” Defour said.

He said his crews did a good job getting the majority of the main roads clear the first day and by the second day the road commission was working in more rural areas.

“Normally we would never be able to do this route without the wings on the truck,” Defour said. “We worked 10 hours each day and we didn’t have to work much overtime considering. We also had 10 full-time people out, two seasonal and the maintenance guy out working.”

Defour said the maintenance worker was running fuel and loading trucks.

Clearing roads in the spring presents a challenge to road crews, because the ground is partially thawed.

“That is one of the difficulties plowing in the spring,” Defour said. “You are going to get some areas where the blades get into the soft dirt. It is one of the casualties of plowing in the spring.”

To mitigate some of the damage, Defour said the crews are instructed to keep the blades on the pavement.

“We did tell the guys not to run the blade off the pavement because not only can it do damage at the shoulder but it can flip the truck,” he said.

Defour said he hopes the snow is done and the road crews can work to catch back up. According to Defour, the storm set the road commission back at least a week in work. He said he is thankful for the communities understanding as the road commission resumes its spring maintenance.

“Most people have lived here for quite a long time and they know what happens in the spring,”

he said.


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