Crews increase hours to prepare for winter

Published 8:36 am Tuesday, December 10, 2013

With snow flurries and ice patches intensifying as the region moves deeper into the winter season, crews with the Cass County Road Commission are also cranking up their presence to keep roads safe for county residents.

The commission’s truck operators will now have regular weekend shifts servicing the county’s 1,014 miles of roads,  Commission CEO Christopher Bolt said during the regular meeting of the Cass County Board of Commissioners last week. Four crews will be working on Saturdays and Sundays, proactively dealing with problematic road conditions before they become a larger issue during the week, he said.

“In fair conditions, we will attempt to have our crews patch up roads that have regions in need of repair,” Bolt said.

The road commission employs a fleet of trucks equipped with underbody scrapers, front plows and sanders to deal with the snow and ice that accumulates on county streets. Crews work in coordination with the Cass County Sheriff’s Department to monitor road conditions, with trucks dispatched to clear off troubled roads typically between the hours of 3 to 7 a.m.

One of the problems that Bolt discussed during his remarks to the board was a lack of funding and staffing for their operations the commission has faced over the last several years.

“We’re currently doing more with less,” Bolt said. “We only have 50 percent of the staff we had 10 years ago, with the same budget we had 10 years ago. It’s an issue we’re still addressing.”

The commission is primarily funded by the Michigan Transportation Fund, who has continued to provide the same amount of annual revenue despite a consistent increase in the commission’s operation costs, Bolt said. In response, the commission has cut its staffing from around 60 workers to 30.

When asked about any changes to office hours, Bolt said the commission’s Cassopolis office is open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday, throughout the winter season.

Also during the meeting, board passed its consent agenda for the evening, by a vote of six to one. The agenda included the following items:

• A motion to reapprove Cassopolis resident Ron Francis on the county Library Board for another four-year term.

• A motion to amend the county budget to approve incoming funds from the U.S. State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, which provides yearly grant money to reimburses state and local governments for the costs of incarcerating unauthorized immigrants.

• A motion to approve the purchase a new vehicle for the Cass County Drug Enforcement Team.