Heavy snowfall has blanketed Houghton County for the past month and the freezing temperatures make it even more difficult for the plows to keep the roads safe, but as ABC 10 Keweenaw Bureau Reporter Sam Ali shows us, the frigid conditions have had a similar affect on the county budget.

This past December brought in an historical amount of snow to the Copper Country. According to the Michigan Tech Keweenaw Research Center in Calumet, Houghton County had 87 inches of snow in December, the highest monthly measurement since January 2004 when 105 inches fell, a record that still stands today. And the Houghton County Road Commission is having a hard time keeping up. Damaged plows and being understaffed is making the job harder for County Engineer Kevin Harju and his workers.

“This is now as one of the pieces of equipment goes out of service or it’s broken, or say we have a driver become ill during the winter season, we don’t have enough employees to cover that particular plow run,” Harju said.

How is the budget so far? Harju says that compared to last year at this time, the road commission is already $70,000 over their budget, mostly due to fuel consumption for the plows. But where the impact will be felt is down the road when the snow is long gone.

“What winds up happening when you have a severe winter like we’re having right now is we spend the majority of our budget in the winter time and that takes away from we can do in the summer as far as road repairs,” Harju explained.
The Road Commission will continue to do their best to keep the roads plowed and ask for the public to exhibit patience during this time.