IRON RIVER—Should the Iron County Road Commission close its Iron River offices and garage and consolidate its operations at its facility on U.S. 2 near Oss Road?
A proposal to make the change was made during the commission’s monthly meeting on June 10.
Commissioner Chris Sholander made the proposal. “It’s a multi-million dollar facility,” he said. “There is space there. It is centrally located.
“Our personnel are limited right now based on numbers,” he continued. He proposed consolidating the foremen, work staff, mechanics and equipment at one place.
It could be done in three phases:
--Moving workers and equipment from Iron River to Oss Road.
--Possibly moving the Road Commission’s administrative and supervisory staff from Iron River to the Courthouse in Crystal Falls, “where the rest of county government is centered.” Years ago, the Road Commission had its offices in the ground floor of the Courthouse.
--Liquidating the Iron River facilities and using the savings to purchase needed equipment or hire more personnel.
“I think we should consider it and come up with a consensus prior to settling on any union contract negotiations that are up at the end of the year.” He asked the other commissioners to discuss the matter among themselves.
Board Chairman Dan Germic remembered the topic coming up when he first joined the Road Commission. “It was kiboshed for one reason or another,” he said. This time, the pros and cons should be looked at.
“I’m focused on this,” Sholander said, asking for feedback from staffers, administration and figures on what the savings would be.
Commissioner Ernest Schmidt asked that the topic be placed on the July agenda.
• It has been about 10 years since the Road Commission last purchased a truck box. On June 10, members voted to purchase a truck box that can be used by three trucks in the county fleet.
The cost is $42,000 for a radial-sided, stainless box. A standard steel box is $22,000, but Superintendent Doug Tomasoski wanted the radial-sided boxes, which won’t rust and can be moved on other chassis.
Commissioner Joe Sabol moved to purchase one box and maybe a second box later if the budget permits.
• The board approved AECOM’s bid for the design engineering work on replacing the Paint River bridge on Bates-Amasa Road (County Road 643). AECOM had the highest bid ($39,578), but Tomasoski recommended them because they provide a detailed bridge inspection.
The superintendent said the original estimate for design work was $50,000, so the AECOM bid is well below what had been projected.
Construction of the new bridge is expected in 2015, and the cost is estimated at $900,000. The state’s critical bridge fund will pay 95 percent of construction costs, with the county paying the remaining 5 percent plus engineering.
• Tomasoski said a temporary culvert will be installed this week on the east end of Sunset Lake. “Just in the last month, a hole appeared and a big dip.” Workers will have to open the road twice—the second time is when permanent repairs are made, after required permits are obtained from the Departmnt of Environmental Quality.
“It’s to the point where we don’t want to leave it for another month and a half or two months. That road gets a lot of traffic. While work is under way, traffic will have to go around the west side of the lake.
• Tomasoski said Northeast Asphalt won the contract to do repair work on U.S. 2-141 near the County Road 424 intersection this summer. It means the company will have somebody here later in the year, available to do local projects.
• County and Mastodon Township officials will try to change residents’ minds about scarifying part of Buck Lake Road.
The road has some famously bad stretches, and a full rebuild project is still several years away. For now, the Road Commission will have asphalt placed on about 500 feet to take care of the worst problems.
Township Trustee Raymond Kudwa said that’s what township residents want. “People don’t like the scarifying business,” he remarked.
Commissioner Charles Battan couldn’t understand that. “Take a look at Long Lake,” he said. “Actually, it’s better than blacktop. Go look at it. I can’t understand why people fight that so much.”
Kudwa said township residents always talk about the dusty condition of Airport Road after it was scarified. But Tomasoski said Airport Road never had chloride applied.
Commissioners talked about scarifying and applying chloride on a small section of Buck Lake Road so residents can see for themselves.
• Since the county started using temporary summer workers, Tomasoski reported, graders have been busy on gravel township roads. From the Crystal Falls garage, at least one grader was in use for 17 of the last 22 work days. Two graders were used on 10 days.
Graders were working from the Iron River garage on 13 days. “It has been a positive,” he said.
• Commissioners discussed whether to start the process of submitting township road projects earlier in fall, to allow for more time to settle any questions before the bids go out.
Mansfield Township Supervisor Richard Dryjanski made the request, after work on several township roads fell too far behind. “It’s got to be September/October,” he said. “They got time to check the roads, and they’ve got until spring to give us the bids.”
Tomasoski said townships are currently asked in November or December for project lists. About half the townships submit their lists by the requested date; others drag their feet. Priorities can also change after a severe winter.
Commissioners asked Tomasoski to prepare a format with dates that the commission can review.