Road Commission expects savings due to mild winter

With gas prices steadily climbing, it’s nice to hear some good news. The Road Commission for Oakland County (RCOC) is expecting to see $1.5 million is savings as a result on our recent and unusually mild winter.

“With the unseasonably warm temperatures we have experienced lately, and the reduced amount and frequency of snow we saw for the last five months, we are now comfortable with the conclusion that we will, in fact, see a savings this year due to the mild winter,” stated RCOC Vice-Chairman Greg Jamian. He explained the savings is due to the reduced amount of both salt and employee overtime pay the agency used throughout the winter.

As of March 18, RCOC had used 42,297 tons of salt for the winter season. That is just over half the 83,143 tons of salt used by the same date last year. Additionally, RCOC has used about half as much of its overtime budget compared to last year.

“This savings could not have come at a better time,” Jamian added. “Despite cutting our costs, improving our efficiency and reducing our staff by nearly 25 percent, the Road Commission has been challenged by continually falling revenues for the last five years. While this additional money is just a drop in the bucket compared to what we need, every little bit helps, and this will certainly make a difference.”

RCOC Managing Director Dennis Kolar said the money is expected to be used to buy some desperately needed new equipment as well as to purchase some additional gravel to help stabilize unpaved primary county roads during the summer and will help to minimize further previously planned staff reductions.

“We have not purchased any new equipment in five years, and our trucks are really showing their age,” Kolar said. However, because the trucks come with a price tag of about $200,000 apiece, Kolar said he expects to be able to purchase only two.

The agency also will purchase five specialized salt-truck insert units that provide improved efficiency for salting and brine operations (brine is liquid salt that is spread on the roads to help fight ice) and allow a single truck to treat multiple lanes in one pass. These units will allow RCOC to save money by reducing salt use and winter operations costs while maintaining the same level of road safety.

Additional gravel is desperately needed to help stabilize some of the 770-plus miles of gravel roads under RCOC’s jurisdiction, Kolar noted. “Due to the ongoing road-funding crisis, we have not been able to add new gravel to many of the unpaved roads as we would have liked,” he stated. “While this won’t solve the problem, it will help us to stabilize several roads.”

Kolar expects to be able to add new gravel to about 15 miles of roads.

Some of the funds also will help the agency avoid some additional, previously planned staff reductions. RCOC has reduced its workforce by 132 people since 2007, and the RCOC Three-Year Financial Plan calls for 21 additional vacancies by the end of the current fiscal year. So far, the staff reductions have occurred through attrition.

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