Harsh winter weather puts strain on Isabella County Road Commission budget, employees
Last January, the road commission more than doubled its funding for maintenance and fuel from January 2013. Jalene Sandel, ICRC finance director, said the road commission spent $566,808 in January 2014, almost as much as January 2013 ($216,064) and 2012 ($363,462) combined.
It also increased its overtime hours for its workers by more than five times the previous year. Road commission workers put in about 1,087 overtime hours in January 2014, compared to 188 in January 2013 and 395 in January 2012.
The road commission started with about $840,000 for maintenance for the winter months, in addition to $400,000 for fuel for the entire year. Sandel said the road commission will most likely have to use money from other accounts to keep the roads snow and ice-free if the harsh winter continues.
“When we go over (our budget), which we will, we will have to take money out of one of our other maintenance accounts," Sandel said. "We don’t know exactly where we’re going to take it out of right now.”
After spending $36,639 in January 2013 and $35,949 in January 2012, the road commission began combining other elements, like sand, to its salt this year to decrease spending. In January 2014, the commission spent $16,923 on salt.
ICRC Manager Tony Casali said talk of where to get the extra funds will take place Friday at the next ICRC board meeting.
“We’re talking about what we’ll be looking at on that budget at that next meeting,” Casali said. "By then, we should know what we’re going to come up with. I’m thinking we’ll need about $200,000 to 300,000 for this winter. We’ll have a better idea for our budget two weeks from April. For right now, that’s several weeks to go. All we can do is take our best educated guess based on our past history.”
The amount of money could result in adjustments to other planned projects, depending on which budget the road commission decides to use money from. Some of those projects could be efforts worked on by the road commission and Union Township, including work on Deerfield Road.
“We do work with the Road Commission,” said Union Township Supervisor Russ Alwood. “This year, one of the main projects is through Deerfield Road, between Crawford and Mission. We’re going to make that into three lanes and have a walkable trail.”