DPW crew is winter weary
The 2013-14 winter season will go down as one of the snowiest and coldest for most of Michigan.
The greater Frankenmuth area did not escape the brunt of the snow and ice . . . just ask Frankenmuth Department of Public Works Superintendent Randy Braeutigam.
Braeutigam, who has been with the city the past 39 years, said compared to last season, expenses are up about $60,000.
“We’ve not experienced a winter like this in a long time. In a normal season, we will use about 350 tons of salt and we’ve used that much already,” Braeutigam said. “We are 50 ton short of a full barn so we are OK.”
That, was before Monday evening’s heavy snowfall, which began around 5pm here and lasted into the middle of the night, leaving a powdery 5-7 inch blanket.
The $60,000 figure includes the whole gamut in snow scraping and removal – equipment, materials, man power and more.
The drivers this season with weary overtime hours include Gary Schaeff, Mike Zehnder, Mark Daenzer, Paul Bergman, Jacob Laux (who just returned back to work) and DPW mechanic Ben Rinaldi, who also filled in at times.
“When we get four or more inches of snow, we bring in the whole staff,” Braeutigam, who has been superintendent since 1992, said.
Braeutigam also relies on the Frankenmuth Police Department. Officers on patrol often contract the crew when they are needed, especially in the overnight hours. Ideally, the crew likes to start around 2-3am during major snow and ice events, to have the morning commute ready for everyone.
Each snow plow truck can hold 4-5 tons of salt. The salt is mixed with a beet juice that gives added protection for the roadways.
“I’m sold on it and it definitely helps in the cold. It leaves a residue, especially at night when roads can flash freeze or refreeze,” Braeutigam said. “It really works well on bridges. This keeps the guys from coming back out again, which increases overtime and it saves on the equipment.
The residue is a brownish and reddish in color. It can be seen on the roadways quite easily.
The beet juice used to be mixed in as the salt was spread. However, that plugged up the salt distribution. Instead, the DPW mixes in the beet juice into 50 tons of salt at a time, creating a "bowl” and using the backhoe to combine it. Braeutigam said about six gallons of sugar beet juice is used per ton of salt.
The juice comes from a company based in Howell. The DPW uses a Frankenmuth Fire Department tanker and hauls back 2,000 gallons per trip; the city can store 4,000 gallons.
Beet juice cost for this season was $1.44 per gallon; last season it was $1.29 per gallon. Salt, which comes from North American Salt, is around $48 per ton. Frankenmuth participates in state purchasing, meaning it buys in bulk with other communities to save money. Sergeant Dock, located near the Zilwaukee Bridge on the Saginaw River, delivers the salt.
“We usually sign up in March. It’s a guessing game, however, we have been pretty good with 350 tons annually, with the beet juice,” Braeutigam said.
The DPW is responsible for 28 miles of streets and about four miles of sidewalks. The crew cleans the sidewalks along Main Street and Genesee Street, where the schools are located. The DPW also maintains M-83, which is a state highway. Braeutigam keeps a record of the work down on Main Street and the city is later reimbursed for the plowing and salting.
The DPW crew does not venture into the township, although the Frankenmuth Jaycees did contract with them to clear and salt West Tuscola Road earlier this month for the 8K Winterlaufe, up to Beyer Road.
The city uses three large plow trucks, one pickup truck, a trackless machine for sidewalk work with a 15-inch snow blower, has a brush attachment that can be used for lighter snow events and a full-size tractor and large snow blower.
A few weeks before Zehnder’s Snowfest, the entire crew removed snow along Main Street, from Genesee to Jefferson streets. The employees scraped and dumped the snow into the inside lanes and, Schaeff, operating the tractor with the large snow blower, traveled in reverse, windrowing the snow into truck beds, much like a farmer would operate a sugar beet harvester and shoot the beets into a nearby semi.
The excess snow is taken to a large flat area behind the Frankenmuth Waste Water Treatment Plant.
Daenzer has also been operating the city’s grader and pay loader, especially along Churchgrove Road where the west winds whip drifts into place on many occasions.
Braeutigam has been pleased with the city residents with their assistance in keeping vehicles off the streets overnight, not blowing or shoveling snow back on to the streets (it is against the state law) and assisting the FFD in keeping their fire hydrants visible and clear of snow. Most residents also clear the sidewalks in front of their homes.
Last month, the Emil Rummel Agency took the lead in clearing well over 140 hydrants. A small crew of men banded together for Operation Hydrant Clean Out. The DPW also removed snow around hydrants north of town, on M-83, as the city operates the water system for Frankenmuth Township.
The resulting plowing and salting has caused only a few mailboxes to be damaged.
“It is unfortunately, all part of the game. But if we know we damaged a mailbox, we will fix them if residents let us know about it,” the DPW chief noted.
The City DPW plows its lots, and a dozen or so other private lots which are contracted to them.
As for equipment break downs, thankfully, they have been few.
“However, our maintenance hours and cost are up. We are hoping it all melts very slowly,” Braeutigam said.