Well, that was expensive.
Two back-to-back snowstorms that dumped nearly two feet of snow on Oakland County between Dec. 31 and Jan. 11 cost the county’s road commission nearly $3 million, with road workers putting in nearly 9,000 hours of overtime hours.
“it was an historic series of events,” Road Commission of Oakland County chairman Greg Jamian said in a news release. “First, the storm that started New Year’s Eve brought about six inches of snow. Four days later, just as we were completing cleanup of that storm, the monster storm arrived, dumping another 12 to 16 inches of snow.”
And then came the “whip-lash weather” – the polar vortex that brought record low temperatures and high winds that moved the snow around, followed by a dramatic temperature swing to the 40s, accompanied by heavy rain.
It was a perfect storm, in a manner of speaking.
“If you were trying to design weather conditions to wreak the most havoc on roads, you couldn’t do much better than this,” Jamian said.
The $3 million figure includes regular and overtime wages for storm-related activities that included plowing and salting roads, truck maintenance, materials (salt, brine and sand), and also contracted labor for subdivisions and back roads.
Jamian said the hefty tab for snow removal will mean there will be $3 million less available for repairing roads.
He said the rapid freeze/thaw is already causing countless potholes around the county and rendering gravel roads nearly impassable in rural areas.
“Even though our workers were exhausted from fighting the storms, as soon as the snow was cleaned up, we immediately began to patch potholes and address the gravel roads,” Jamian said.
Jamian praised the Road Commission employees for their commitment and willingness to go the extra mile and work extended hours, especially at a time when many people are spending time at home with family.
“On New Year’s Day and in the days and weeks since then, many of our employees have worked extensive amounts of overtime,” he said. “Most of them do this because they recognize the importance of their jobs to the safety of the motorists of Oakland County, and I thank them for all they have been doing.”
The money spent to battle the storm is funding that is now not available for resurfacing roads in the spring and summer, for replacing aging equipment or for any other road improvement activities that are sorely needed.
Jamian noted RCOC operating revenues are derived from the state-collected gas and diesel taxes and vehicle registration fees.
“Many people think we are funded through property taxes, but we are not. We don’t receive your property taxes,” he said, adding that revenue from the fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees fell significantly during the last 10 years.
However, the agency has taken a number of steps to try to reduce the impact of the falling revenue on the level of service, such as hiring contractors to help plow subdivisions and back roads. Also, this year, for the second year, RCOC hired part-time, seasonal workers to assist full-time staff in fighting the snow storms.
“We are doing everything we can, with the resources available, to provide the highest level of service and the safest roads we can,” Jamian said.