ATLANTA - The Montmorency County Road Commission has been working hard to keep county roads safe for drivers so far this year. With the record cold temperatures, plenty of snow and gusty winds, that job has been no easy task.
"So far, from November to February, we've spent $160,000 more than last year," Manager Joel Kim Bleech said. "Our employees have put in a lot of overtime and we've been trying to keep up with salting and sanding the roads. This year it seems like we've had higher winds more than normal, and that's caused a lot of drifting. We're pushing the same snow back off the roads a lot."
Snow plows have been distributing a mixture of sand and salt, because with the low temperatures the salt doesn't have as much effect for traction.
"We've used about 30 percent more salt and sand this winter than we normally do," Bleech said. "We're getting low on it in some of the garages, and will probably have to pick up more if this weather continues."
Another concern is the depth of the frost in the ground. Bleech said by the looks of things and predicted weather, the frost won't be out of the ground until mid-March, which could cause problems for truckers.
"The frost is almost double what it usually is under the roads," Bleech said. "In the roads, the frost is probably around eight to 10 feet deep, but off the road the snow is helping to keep the frost from going as deep."
Bleech said since the road commission has spent so much on winter maintenance, it probably won't be able to reseal a lot of the roads, and likely will be going over budget if the weather continues by around $100,000 for winter maintenance.
"We have over 650 miles of road to cover," Bleech said. "The way this winter has been and how deep the frost is, we'll have to be fixing the roads a lot in summer."
When the frost thaws, cracks are left in the blacktop from where the soil expanded, and each time these cracks are ran over by a car they get bigger until they break up and form a pothole.
"We'll do as much as we can to maintain the roads for summer," Bleech said. "The reseal program will be cut back because of the extra money we spent in winter, so instead of the usual 15 to 18 miles, this year we will maybe be able to do five."
Bleech also said he is hoping for a millage renewal during primary elections in August, and hopes the county will renew the one mill the commission is currently receiving.
"It's been a rough year so far," Bleech said. "We have to really watch everything."
Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.