Starke County Highway Department Keeping Busy Despite Lack of Snow Removal

It’s unusual for the Starke County Highway Department to have nearly all of the materials hauled in for spring and summer operations in January, but Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler informed the commissioners Monday night that they’re doing just that.  With the lack of snow removal efforts this winter, crews have been busy with several other projects to prepare for the summer paving season and completing some minor bridge maintenance work during the down time.

Ritzler said the mild winter has saved money in the budget.

“We’ve saved about $7,000 in diesel, $600 in gas, $36,000 in salt savings, $17,000 in sand, $14,000 in driver overtime, $3,700 in mechanic overtime, for just under $80,000,” said Ritzler.  “That doesn’t include wear and tear saved on trucks and blade use and other costs associated with winter.  So, we’re ahead of the game.”

Ritzler recorded one inch of snow in December 2018 compared to 14 inches in 2017.  There were only 175 plow hours by all drivers in December 2018 compared to 1,632 hours in December 2017. 

Ritzler also noted that Construction Inspection Supervisor Bob Lorenz has been able to inspect all of the county’s 661 culverts and structures less than 20 feet wide. 

“More than 50 percent of our culverts are good, very good, or new while 186 of those are fair and 99 are poor.  Of those 99, 22 were deemed by Lorenz to be replaced.  We may raise that number like we did last year.  One reason why we don’t necessarily replace a poor culvert is that if it not damaging the roadway and there’s no drainage problem there’s really no reason to tear up the road to replace it.”

Ritzler stressed that crews are ready for when the snow comes.  Road salt is mixed and equipment is properly prepped for the season.