DPW, road commission prepared for snowfall, ice

OSCEOLA COUNTY — No matter when winter weather falls, departments and employees throughout Osceola County are prepared to handle the worst in snow and ice.

The Osceola County Road Commission uses a mixture of two-thirds sand and one-third salt to provide traction as well as ice removal. Employees are responsible for clearing about 600 miles of county roads during the winter months, as the other 350 miles are season roads or maintained by the Michigan Department of Transportation.

"We're pretty much geared up for winter maintenance," said Osceola County Road Commission Manager Luke Houlton. "We primarily use salt mixed with a little bit of sand as opposed to only salt."

The county's salt barns are full, he added, and prices have decreased from last year. The commission uses an average of 1,800 to 2,100 tons each season, and currently it has 1,900 tons on hand.

Evart has roughly 15 miles of road and many parking lots for DPW employees to plow and salt each winter.

"Typically we get the salters on and hook up the plows and the hydraulics on the trucks now," said Evart DPW Director Mark Wilson. "We've been challenged changing over because the leaves all fell late this season, but the salt was delivered in September and I know we're good to go. We're ready to roll."

Salting too often can create additional ice if the snow melts and refreezes, so workers keep a thin layer of snow on the roadway to allow drivers some traction. Wilson said experienced DPW workers know the drill if bad winter weather were to happen, and the employees can adjust the mix of salt and sand to adjust to any road condition.

In Reed City, DPW stores about 350 tons each season to maintain about 24 miles of city roads. However, Reed City Manager Ron Howell said this year the city only ordered 105 tons due to its abundance of salt accumulated from previous years, which saves the city money. Reed City DPW workers also use a mixture of salt and sand when temperatures are below 20 degrees.

"We believe we're in pretty good shape," Howell said. "We lowered our cost and it looks like, so far, that it was a good call because the weather has been cooperative. But we're ready."

DWP trucks are prepared with proper equipment in case of winter weather, and Howell added he is confident Reed City DPW employees will get the job done efficiently.