Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

April 8, 2014

Editorial: Road Commission can't pretend there isn't work

Just when you thought it was safe to stop worrying about off-the-wall management at the Grand Traverse County Road Commission, along comes another head-scratcher.

About 120 days after county voters approved a millage that will provide the road commission $3.6 million this year for road projects, the commission approved raises for a dozen non-union administrative employees, including office staff, engineers and others. The raises will total $15,000 this year, 2.5 percent of the administrative staff payroll.

Giving out raises when the commission is facing potential deficits may not be the wisest course of action, but it’s not as if they were double-digit hikes or that $15,000 will break the bank.

But just six days later, in a move that echoed the dysfunctional ways of the commission for the past decade or so, the commission said it was laying off 17 full-time road commission field personnel for four to six weeks beginning March 28. The Road Commission cited both a lack of work and a potential $800,000 deficit.

The lack of work claim is, on its face, preposterous. Drive down virtually any county road and you’ll see — and feel — the massive crop of potholes the county’s crumbling road system and the our record-setting winter have contrived to create. How many potholes could 17 veteran road employees repair - even if the fix will only last a few weeks - in a day? In a week? In the four to six weeks of layoffs they’re facing? How many fewer potholes would you like to face on the way to work?

Commission officials said wet spring weather and the heavy frost that still remains limit the amount of work road crews can do, such as grading roads. So are the only options grading roads or doing nothing? The commission is spending plenty of time and energy filling potholes with temporary patch, and there’s no end to that job.

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