City, Road Commission partnerPublished 11:24am Tuesday, March 9, 2010
By JOHN EBY
Dowagiac Daily News
Louis Csokasy became manager of the Cass County Road Commission one year ago today.
He spent his first year building relationships with the county’s 15 townships.
This year his goal is similar outreach with Dowagiac and the villages.
As he told City Council in a visit Monday night, “I appreciate you making me feel at home talking about potholes and mailboxes. What we’re really trying to do at the Road Commission is focus on the citizens of Cass County and to treat them all as customers. We want to reach out in cooperation. In today’s environment, our funding is decreasing every year and no one wants their taxes raised, so we simply have to do more with less. The way you do that is through technology and through cooperation.”
“A lot of people don’t realize it,” Csokasy continued, “but last year we were honored to not only do some work with filling some of the City of Dowagiac’s potholes, but we also cut all the brush” at Municipal Airport.
“Then that led to an opportunity where your technology department is actually ahead of ours and going in the same direction. You wanted to buy a total station to do your work faster, so we split the cost on that because relationships have to go both ways. We can’t just take from the city, we also have to give back.”
“I am pleased to report that our Department of Public Services (DPS) and the Cass County Road Commission have worked on a number of cost-sharing projects over the last six to eight months, including street repair and joint purchase of survey equipment.
“The latest in the lines of cooperative activity will be the sharing of engineering costs with the Road Commission on an as-needed basis. This is an important element as we look to fund an engineer in training (EIT) position so that several of the grant-funded infrastructure projects could be designed in-house with substantial cost savings,” said City Manager Kevin Anderson.
In fact, council members met Corey Vincent.
She’s originally from Jackson and sat with Csokasy and DPS Director Christopher Bolt, the city engineer.
Vincent, completing her first day on the job March 8, graduated from Western Michigan University with her civil engineering degree.
She is taking a couple of classes toward her master’s degree.
At WMU, Vincent participated in Engineers Without Borders, whose professionals volunteer to go to Third World countries to build roads and water systems.
“We had a project in Honduras,” she told Mayor Don Lyons. “I worked on the design of a water distribution model, but they didn’t have the money to travel yet. They’re actually hoping to do a trip this spring,” but due to her EIT assignment, she won’t be able to go.
“We’re really happy to be working with Cass County Road Commission,” Bolt said. “So far, it’s been a happy and harmonious relationship, so we look forward to working together on a lot of things.”
“I saw you on tonight’s news,” Mayor Pro Tem Leon Laylin mentioned to Csokasy.
The report apparently concerned December’s reversion of Pioneer Street in Marcellus Township to a gravel road because Laylin asked if “you are far enough into this to identify any other roads that may be considered for this?”
“No, sir,” Csokasy replied.
“There’s a lot of this going on in Michigan from the standpoint of cost savings, but I tend to look at that differently. My theory is we have a number of asphalt roads from 25 or 30 years ago that shouldn’t have been. Traffic is less than 100 cars a day and it would cost $80,000 to re-asphalt, so those are the roads we’re grinding up. I suspect that there won’t be any around Dowagiac,” but there might be in Calvin or Volinia townships.
Csokasy said four graders roam the county on a continuous basis, grooming gravel roads.
“We rate every gravel road about every two to three weeks,” he said. “Right now it’s difficult because the frost is coming out of the ground. If we graded them all we’d have is mud, so right now is a difficult time for us, but generally speaking, our gravel roads are really in pretty good shape, though I have to tell you, nobody – or almost nobody – wants to live on a gravel road.”
Csokasy added, “I don’t watch myself on TV and I don’t read articles about me, but what I hope they said is before we did that, we contacted and there were only five people who lived on that road and we went to Marcellus Township, which passed a motion for us to do that – even though we have absolute authority to do that on local roads. There’s a difference between authority and doing it correctly. We’re interested in talking to people.”