VAN BUREN COUNTY, Mich. (Feb. 4, 2014) — With another blast of winter weather, road crews are staying busy. It’s not just snow they’re digging into; several municipalities are also digging into county budgets. West Michigan counties say they are paying big bucks for salt.
Larry Hummel with the Van Buren County Road Commission said that this winter their equipment is working harder, increasing maintenance costs and the amount of salt used on the roads. The county has spent $1.3 million on snow removal and has used 54 percent of it’s annual salt pile.
“We are spending a lot,” said Hummel. “We had over 70 inches of snow in January. We are at about 125 inches through the other day, and more coming tonight. If you look at that as a lot of truck equipment time, a lot of grader time, contractor time.”
Van Buren isn’t alone. Ottawa County said that they’ve already used 75 percent of their annual salt stock. Kent County said it has 70 percent has already hit the roads. Kalamazoo County said that it’s used 57 percent. In Muskegon, they’ve used almost three times the amount of salt compared to last year.
With more salt and more man hours on the road, that means extra cost. Most counties have already forked out millions of dollars this winter alone. Kent County reports the highest at $7 million dollars, and it’s only the beginning of February.
Hummel said that Van Buren County is just one month away from ordering their salt for next year, nearly 10 months early.
“Supply and demand. They need to know how much to have ready when it gets there, and it used to be in April or May. Now they’ve moved it all the way back to March,” said Hummel.
All of the counties FOX 17 spoke with said that if they spend more money than expected for snow removal, Spring and Summer projects could suffer, including road repairs.
“That would become the viscous cycle. Michigan weather, Michigan winters, Michigan spring. You saw already when it warmed up a little bit here about a month ago, or for instance if you take a look at I-94, there are holes everyplace,” said Hummel.
Hummel also said that their yearly budget doesn’t increase at the same rate as the rising cost of fuel and salt, making it more difficult to operate.