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Road dust prompts safety concerns of resident



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Tim Crain on dusty Granger Road. (click for larger version)

IMG_0963_Tim_Carin_2
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Tim Crain on dusty Granger Road. (click for larger version)
June 08, 2011 - Brandon Twp.- Tim Crain has had it with the condition of Granger Road.

The potholes and washboarding are bad enough, but what really puts him over the edge is the dust. With the windows closed and the air conditioning on at his residence in the 1400 block of Granger, within a couple hours he can still get a film of dust on the stovetop that he can write his name in.

"We need to talk about safety," said Crain while addressing the township board at their June 6 meeting. "You can't see (through the dust). It's an issue when you have to wait to pull out of the driveway."

Crain said recently there was a cyclist coming up the hill near his home. A vehicle passed the cyclist, leaving a cloud of dust in its wake. A driver coming from the other direction would never have been able to see the cyclist, he noted, and the dust issue could easily result in a catastrophe one day.

Supervisor Kathy Thurman said the township offices have received "a lot" of calls recently from residents complaining about the state of the roads. During the board meeting, she read a statement from The Road Commission for Oakland County that cited large amounts of rain this spring as well as limited financial resources as the primary source of poor road conditions.

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However, Crain said that neither the weather nor money is the problem.

"It's an issue with scheduling and common sense," he said. "Why would you grade when it will be several days before chloride is applied? There needs to be better communication between Oakland County and the chloriding company."

The Road Commission for Oakland County is responsible for grading all the county-owned roads in the township, paid for out of gas taxes and vehicle registration fees. RCOC also chlorides primary gravel roads at no extra charge. In Brandon, the primary gravel roads are Hadley, Sashabaw, N. Baldwin, and Oakhill.

The township can contract with RCOC to chloride other local roads like Granger, but for the past two years, the township has contracted with private companies in order to save money.

Craig Bryson, public information officer for Oakland County, said this is part of the problem.

"We promote to the townships that they ought to go with us for dust control, because when we do both the grading and chloriding, we coordinate very carefully, because we do all of it," he said. "We can't do that when there is a private company doing the chloriding...The challenge is that these things change day to day. We may have a tentative plan to grade on a specific day, but if a culvert fails, we need to switch our road crews. A lot of what we do is responding to external forces."

When the RCOC was providing the chloride applications, it was done immediately after they graded the road. The timing is critical, because grading levels and compresses the surface of the road and chloride helps keep the material compacted. If the road is graded and there is a time lapse of even just a day or two before chloride is applied, the road can be in poor condition again. Bryson said it is much less productive to chloride the road days later.

"I'm not saying the private sector can't do a good job, but the coordination is important and it is difficult to coordinate with someone outside the agency," Bryson said.

This year, the township has contracted with Road Maintenance Corporation, based in Leonard, for five chloride applications, at a cost of $65,155. Thurman said the township is saving about $15,000 going with the private company instead of RCOC for chloride. Last year, the township used Wilkinson Corporation for three applications.

"There is always going to be a lapse of time between county grading and contracted private company chloriding, because the county can send (chloride) tankers out to follow the graders," Thurman said. "Road Maintenance Corporation just started. They had a tanker break down Monday, but it appears Road Maintenance can get tankers out quicker than Wilkinson did last year. The problem last year and this year is not the coordination, it's the weather."

Crain said he doesn't want his road any better than other roads, just equally as good. He notes that Allen, Kent and Granger east of Sashabaw are all roads in better shape than his part of Granger Road.

"I just want this road to look like others— hardpacked and relatively smooth... We can make excuses for the incompetent roads, but at the end of the day, they still need to be graded and chlorided. It's rained more than it has since Noah and the ark, but the grader is still coming up and down the road. If it's hardpacked, leave it alone."

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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