ISHPEMING — The Marquette County Road Commission is using many fewer people to clear the roads now than 15 years ago.
In 2001, the road commission had 100 full-time employees. Now, there are 50 full-time employees and 24 part–time employees to plow the entire county.
The commission says that to meet the expectations of the public, it needs more trucks and more people.
“If we don’t have either one, then we can’t perform the service,” Marquette County Road Commission engineer/manager Jim Iwanicki said. “Now, we can bring contractors on, but they need to have trucks and people too, and that costs money, too. So whether we do it (plowing) or whether we bring a contractor in, it’s an issue of money, and it comes down to the last time there was a gas tax raise was in 1997 here in Marquette County.”
Iwanicki said residents wondered why trucks did not plow the roads sooner during last week’s snowstorm. He said the trucks were there, but people didn’t realize the plows had come by.
“They left before the plow got there in the morning,” Iwanicki said. “When they came back, the plow had already been there and it looks like, based on the weather and the snow and dealing with the mat on the road, it looked like we weren’t there. So again, they didn’t have any big piles of snow sitting in their driveway. They couldn’t figure out if it was the Road Commission that was there or if it was snow, so again, that made people upset. But when we did check that on our AVL system — the system that tracks our plows — most of those complaints, when we take a look at our computer system, we had a plow in those areas.”
During heavy snowstorms, the Road Commission crews work 12-hour shifts. Their priority is to first plow state highways, then move to city and secondary streets.