IRON RIVER—Most of Iron County has finally seen the end of a severe winter. But the county’s Road Commission will be dealing with its aftermath for quite a while.
During the commission’s April 8 regular meeting, Superintendent Doug Tomasoski reported that the Legislature has approved a special appropriation for winter maintenance, and the bill has been signed by the governor.
The funds are to offset the excessive road maintenance costs of a severe winter.
Also, Tomasoski said, more federal money will be available for federal aid projects, to be spent by 2015. “We’ll be rolling those into projects for next year.”
One change with federal aid, he noted, is that the funds have to be spent down every year. That is a change local road commissions don’t like: It doesn’t allow them to carry over funds to the next year to cover the costs of larger projects.
To compensate for that, he said, Gogebic and Iron counties are going to be lending state transportation money back and forth—Gogebic will wind up with the funds this year, and Iron will repaid next year.
• Tomasoski also reported that the state Department of Transportation now plans to work on a troublesome part of U.S. 2-141 this summer.
The highway surface has been breaking up south of Crystal Falls, near the County Road 424/Split Rock intersection, especially in winter. The superintendent said MDOT plans to let bids for the project in June, with the work to be done later this summer.
Until then, the Road Commission will continue patching the road as needed.
• Commissioner Ernest Schmidt has been pushing for the Road Commission to hire temporary summer workers, and the commission has advertised for temporary workers. But so far, said Tomasoski, nobody has been hired.
He said reviews are completed, applicants ranked, “and we’re considering them.”
“I’m not impressed, but we will talk to them.”
Tomasoski said some applicants are very interested in operating graders. When told they would be filling in for permanent crew members, they seemed less interested. Tomasoski said the office would be contacting them to see if they are still interested.
Any temporary workers would not start before May 1, due to drug testing and other screening procedures. But that will not affect any Road Commission work. “Our restrictions are going to be on till the end of May,” he noted.
• Commissioners discussed local road project bids for the townships. Besides the two federal aid roads (Gibbs City Road, Lind Road), they discussed bids for a project on a number of township roads.
With many roads and ditches snow-covered much later than normal, preliminary work has been delayed.
• The commission discussed its heavy maintenance policy. The policy has been amended several times in recent years—the most recent amendment (from 2008) says the Road Commission will not charge a 9 percent administrative fee if the project is 100 percent funded by the township.
Tomasoski was asked to clarify the policy’s language and eliminate language that is out of date.
• After discussion, the board approved a streamlined policy on purchasing trucks by bid. Right now, the full Road Commission has to authorize bids or call a special meeting. That’s a problem because officially occasionally learn of a good deal online that they have to act quickly on. Attorney Mark Tousignant said a phone survey of board members would violate the Open Meetings Act.
In the end, the board authorized Tomasoski to bid up to $10,000 for available vehicles, after consulting with the equipment committee and head mechanic.
• The superintendent reported that federal agencies have approved the consultant agreement for the Heritage Trail project, and surveying is done. The sides are waiting for a third-party agreement, and the Road Commission needs to approve a resolution, maybe at its May meeting.
• Tomasoski also reported that the costs of a pre-wet system for treating winter roads would be $12,600 for a ground-based pumping system and storage tank, plus $6,500 per truck.
Crystal Falls Township Tom Lesandrini noted later, though, that chloride can be brought to Iron County by rail and the tank left on a siding near Amasa. “You can bring in the tanks from the company. As they are emptied, the railroad will pick them back up.”
• Mansfield Township Supervisor Richard Dryjanski asked about a low spot on a gravel road in the Dykes area that collects runoff water. “People are afraid to go through there.”
Lesandrini asked about other roads “that haven’t been hit by a grader for years.” He mentioned Fence Lake Road and Fence River Road, which are county roads.
The Road Commission does not have jurisdiction over other forest roads in that area and has never maintained them. “A number of the paper companies used to take care of those a lot,” Tomasoski said, “and then not so much anymore.”
• In other business:
--The commission formally approved the chloride policy agreed to at the March meeting.
--It authorized Board Chairman Dan Germic and Tomasoski to sign authorizations for federal aid funding for the Gibbs City Road and Lind Road projects.