By Per Peterson
Some local township roads that took a beating during last year’s floods are closed once again — this time, the result of a relentless winter that has some township officials feeling the pressure of not only maintaining the roads, but having to decide which ones to keep open.
Amiret Township Chairman Ben Ludeman said the township has spent roughly half of its levy on snow removal just in the last six weeks.
“We haven’t been billed for last month yet, but it’s going to be easily 50%,” he said. “And we still have to gravel and maintain roads, take care of fire contracts. This is assuming we’re all done — we still have March to go. We’re doing only what is necessary because we’re running low on funds.”
Amiret Township contracts out for its snow removal unlike some other townships that do their own. It’s gotten to the point, Ludeman said, that the township has chose to close about seven miles of township roads that were deemed unnecessary for travel.
“We bulldozed about four spots to allow people to move — pushed the snow back so it doesn’t continually fill in,” Ludeman said. “We are very fortunate to have a good contractor that has been taking care of it for us.”
Ludeman, who has been on the township board for about a decade, is a local native and remembers only one winter as bad as this one.
“This isn’t nearly as bad as 1996-97 when we had an ice storm in November,” he said. “We were on top of ice all winter. That started in November and stayed, and now it’s March, so that’s not as bad. But this is a close second.”
Ludeman said Amiret Township is still waiting on FEMA funds from last summer, and he praised Amiret Township residents for their patience and attitude during this rough stretch of winter.
“They’re all pretty self-sufficient,” he said of his neighbors. “They have blowers if they need to get out and four-wheel drive pick-ups. I’m impressed with the county-like attitude they have of, ‘We’ll get by and make it until the weather turns.’”
Steve Meyer, a snowplow operator for 30 years, moves snow on township roads in Holly Township. Like Ludeman, Meyer said this winter isn’t as bad as 96-97, but it’s close. As of last week, six out of 40 miles of Holly Township roads are closed.
“It’s getting to the point where it’s taking so long to open the roads that if we get a road that’s not being used and it’s taking us quite a while to get it open, we won’t open it so we can get the roads that are used open,” Meyer said. “This last storm it took me 23 hours to open the roads up completely. It’s frustrating as all get-out. You spend all the time getting it open, then we get more wind and we get more drifts.”
Meyer, who is clerk/treasurer for Monroe Township, is one of two people who moves snow in Holly. He said it costs between $600-$700 for one road-clearing trip around the township — “and that’s when it’s easy-going,” he said.
Meyer has concerns moving forward about the shape of township roads after all the snow melts and how some townships will be able to afford keeping them up after spending so much to rebuild roads after last summer’s flooding.
“Townships had to spend a substantial amount of money getting roads fixed, and then you add this to it — it’s getting hard for some townships,” he said. “The township I plow for, we spent close to $80,000 on roads after the flooding, then this? It all adds up.”
Meyer said basically every road in Monroe Township was affected in some way after the July 3 flood, and a substantial number of culverts in Holly Township had to be replaced.