TRAVERSE CITY — Grand Traverse County Road Commission officials will temporarily lay off about half their road crew in a money-saving move.
The commission faces a potential $700,000 to $800,000 deficit by year’s end.
“If we are committed to doing all the road projects we said we were going to do and spend as money as we projected for winter, we would be at an $800,000 deficit,” said Grand Traverse County Road Commission Manager Jim Cook. “Our plan is to keep the necessary staff to deal with pothole patching, emergency tree services, things like that.”
Field personnel have little to do during the late-winter, early-spring season when the ground is either too frozen or damp, so it doesn’t make sense to pay a full stale of crew, Cook said.
They could be recalled to work in case of a snow storm, officials said.
Seventeen full-time employees will be laid off for four to six weeks starting at the end of March and again in October. The move is expected to save the commission between $100,000 and $150,000, Cook said.
Those employees have an experience range of from one to 10 years at the road commission, Cook said.
The county has enough money in its general fund to cover the deficit, but it’s not sustainable to use the fund balance to do so every year, Cook said.
“You can’t fix roads during the wet season,” said Marc McKellar, the chair of the road commission board. “If you had the full crew on they couldn’t all be out patching holes anyway because there’s not enough equipment to do it.”
The commission’s last round of seasonal layoffs was in 2011, when 15 mechanics and equipment operators were put out of work during the summer months.
The road commission will rebalance its budget again in April, Cook said.