Charlevoix County Road Commission wrestling with a $300,000 cost overrun due to harsh winter

road budget web

Benjamin Gohs

News Editor

A harder than average winter and ever-increasing fuel costs have the Charlevoix County Road Commission looking at a several hundred thousand dollar overrun.

Word, last week, of a nearly $200,000 windfall from the state’s general fund was good news … but it merely put a dent in the nearly half-million-dollars Charlevoix County has gone over-budget trying to keep up with snow and ice.

“It ain’t gonna cover the overrun we had this winter but it’ll help—it’s better than not getting anything,” said Charlevoix County Road Commission Manager Pat Harmon. “Usually we budget a million dollars on winter maintenance and we’re past that—it’s pretty close to a half a million.”

Harmon said the bulk of the extra cost went to paying his men overtime, buying extra fuel, as well as the need for additional salt and sand.

Charlevoix County received $194,941.86 as part of a $60.9 million one-time appropriation to help local road commissions sure up their winter road maintenance budgets.

“These funds are badly needed by counties, cities and villages to compensate for the extraordinarily high costs of plowing, salting and filling potholes this past winter,” said State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle. “We are all extremely appreciative of the governor’s and Legislature’s understanding of the toll this brutal winter has taken on road budgets.”

According to Harmon, the road commission’s fuel bill just for the month of January was $75,000.

He said there is no way to plan for a harder than normal winter.

“The National Weather Service can give you a long-range forecast or prediction but it’s hard to predict because of all of the lake-effect snow we get,” Harmon said. “We always figure a third of our budget on winter maintenance. We didn’t have any problems keeping up. It was just a lot of overtime on weekends and the fuel costs are what really killed us.”

The Charlevoix County Road Commission employs 32 people.

Harmon said the nearly $300,000 his budget is short will have to come from other places this summer.

“We’ll have to make it work,” Harmon said. “We’ll see where we’re at when we’re all done with winter and we may have to make some adjustments—I know some counties are not going to mow this summer and some of them are not going to do projects they had scheduled.”

He added, “We’ll be OK that way. I hope we won’t have to cut anything when it’s all said and done but we might have to make some small adjustments.”

Harmon said it was too early to tell what those potential adjustments might mean.

The relief is part of a bill Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law on March 14.

This recent release of funds was part of a total of $100 million given to municipalities statewide to help them with winter road maintenance costs. MDOT received $39.1 million, Michigan’s 83 counties got $39.1 million, and cities and villages received $21.8 million.

The funding was given in amounts based on numerous factors, including road mileage and population of each area.

The money must be used for winter road maintenance costs only.

In addition to the county funds, several municipalities also received funding.

• Boyne City received $24,022.36

• Charlevoix received $15,410.13

• East Jordan received $12,568.24

• Ellsworth received $3,695.97