Tuscola road commission ready for first snowstorm, not so sure about next

Jay Tuckey, superintendent, Tuscola County Road Commission, asks the five-member road commission board about the level of service they want to provide during snowstorms. Michele Zawerucha, road commission engineer, listens to Tuckey’s inquiry. (Photo by Andrew Dietderich)
Jay Tuckey, superintendent, Tuscola County Road Commission, asks the five-member road commission board about the level of service they want to provide during snowstorms. Michele Zawerucha, road commission engineer, listens to Tuckey’s inquiry. (Photo by Andrew Dietderich)

Tuscola County Road Commission Superintendent Jay Tuckey said his organization is ready for the season’s first significant snowfall, but he’s unsure about the level of service he can deliver going forward. The reason, he said, is that he needs direction from the Tuscola County Road Commission’s five-member board as to how much money it wants to spend on clearing roads during and after a snowstorm.
Tuckey told The Advertiser he needs to know “what level of service” they expect so that he can manage operations within budget parameters.
Tuckey raised the issue at the board’s Dec. 1 meeting, but it took no action and did not set a time to do so.
“Obviously we have a budget we have to work under and I just want to see what the board’s comfortable with,” he said Friday. “So we haven’t really discussed numbers yet.”
The Tuscola County Road Commission is responsible for 156 miles of state roads (through contract), 360 miles of primary roads, and another 1,256 of local roads, Tuckey said.
Tuckey said a typical snowstorm costs about $35,000 a day for “a normal eight-hour day.”
If overtime is involved, Tuckey said, costs increase by about 25 percent.
Holiday pay can also factor in, too, he said. A Christmas snowstorm could cost as much as $100,000 this year (due to the four-day weekend), Tuckey said.
He said he initiated the discussion Dec. 1 before any storms occurred or were forecasted. He said it’s “not uncommon” to discuss such matters closer to the end of the year.
“I gave you a whole bunch of different information about costs, and salting snow, and what not…I just want you guys to mull through it and I think we need to talk about what you expect for a level of service this winter,” Tuckey said to the board. “Where we want to go as far as weekends, holidays, overtime.
“It’s just going to be a general discussion over how much you want to spend,” he said.
Board members acknowledged receipt of the information.
“We’ve been pretty fortunate the last couple of winters and I think it’s an important topic,” said Gary Parsell, a member of the Tuscola County Road Commission board.
Tuckey jumped in to point out that “it doesn’t take much…we got a four-day holiday coming up in Christmas and we get banged…”
The board asked Tuckey how much a Dec. 25 snowstorm would cost the road commission.
“What do you want to do?” Tuckey asked.
“Plow all of the roads…like if I want to get to grandma’s,” said Pat Sheridan, a member of the road commission board. “I remember you came up with that a year or two ago and it’s kind of a sobering number.”
Tuckey provided the $100,000 estimate.
The Tuscola County Road Commission took no action on the matter.
Further, board members did not discuss what possible next steps could be to address Tuckey’s questions about level of service those who live, work, and play in Tuscola County should expect in the event of a storm.
The only additional comment came from Tuscola County Road Commission Chairman Jack Laurie who made light of a Christmas snowstorm.
“There are two schools of thought out there,” he said. “One is ‘God I like to be snowed in on Christmas because I don’t need to worry about going anywhere or anyone coming to see me.’
“The other one is ‘If I can’t get out on Christmas, man, the end of the world is near.’”
Near-term, Tuckey said Friday his crew is ready for this weekend’s forecasted snowstorm.
“Our equipment has all been serviced and we’re ready to go,” he said. On Friday, forecasters from the National Weather Service were calling for up to 7 inches of snow to begin falling late Sunday and into early Monday.
Though snowflakes have had an on-again, off-again relationship in the area since late October, it would be the first significant snowfall of the season.
“Obviously, we’ll do (the primary roads) first, then go into our locals,” Tuckey said.
The road commission has about 4,000 ton of salt on hand and 2,000 ton of back-up salt available.
“Our goal whenever a major snowstorm hits is to go out and try to get 32 units on the road,” Tuckey said. “That would include a combination of tandem and single-blade trucks and seven graders if we’re going after it.
“We should be ready for what Mother Nature throws us.”
Andrew Dietderich is editor of The Advertiser and can be reached at andrew@tcadvertiser.com 

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