This winter has been a burden on everyone - especially for cities and county road commissions responsible for keeping our roads maintained and clear of snow. The financial strain on local snow removal budgets has been just as harsh as the weather itself.
As winter has progressed, local agencies have made it clear that snow removal budgets are getting eaten up at fast rate. Jody Norman, interim manager of the Delta County Road Commission, summed it all up in a recent daily Press article about snow removal costs - "Winter is just very expensive."
Good news came out of Lansing Tuesday when the state Senate Appropriations Committee added road maintenance funding to a mid-year budget bill to the tune of $100 million. The committee was expected to approve the bill today.
Under the plan, roughly $78 million would be split evenly between state and county road agencies; the other $22 million would go to cities and villages.
This is good news for Delta County and the Upper Peninsula. Hopefully, an added influx of cash will ease some of the financial burden of keeping local roads and highways safe and clear of snow and ice the remainder of the winter. If Mother Nature is kind, perhaps there will even be some left over to do some extra summer road maintenance when the snow clears.
This has been a tough winter for the entire state - not just the U.P. Detroit has had the third-snowiest winter on record, Grand Rapids the eight-snowiest and Flint the 10th-snowiest, according to the National Weather Service. Although the Upper Peninsula is more accustom to heavy snow fall than some downstate locales, we have had a tough winter, too. It still costs money to plow roads in the U.P. - the same as it does in Detroit or Ann Arbor.
Let's hope that this extra road maintenance funding is distributed fairly, and the U.P. gets its share.