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Crossroads The Quarterly Journal of the County Road Association of Michigan

Volume 1


Number 4

Summer 2016

Preserving Michigan’s historic bridges Page 16

A piece of



Member Profile: Newaygo County reconstructed through partnerships


Innovation Alley: “Bread crumbs” and vehicle locator systems

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The Quarterly Journal of the County Road Association of Michigan


Crossroads Crossroads is the quarterly publication of the County Road Association (CRA) of Michigan. The 83 county members of CRA represent the unified, credible and effective voice for a safe and efficient local road system in Michigan. The Association, headquartered three blocks north of the State Capitol, is dedicated to helping members promote and maintain a safe, efficient local road system in rural and urban Michigan.


James M. Iwanicki, PE, Marquette


Steven A. Warren, Kent


Dorothy G. Pohl, CPA, Ionia


Blair E. Ballou, PE, Eaton

Larry Brown, PE, Allegan

John H. Daly, III, Ph.D., Genesee

John M. Hunt, Huron

Joanna I. Johnson, Kalamazoo

Dennis G. Kolar, PE, Oakland

Bradley S. Lamberg, PE, Barry

Michael A. Maloney, PE, Ontonagon

Douglas J. Mills, PE, Baraga

Larry Orcutt, Alpena

Douglas Robidoux, Mason

Walter J. Schell, PE, Macomb

Kelly Smith, Newaygo

Burt R. Thompson, PE, Antrim

Richard B. Timmer, Chippewa

Denise Donohue, CAE, APR


Kathy Backus

Nathan Jones

Dustin Earley





Newaygo County: Re-constructing a road commission and a reputation.





Efficiencies of AVL systems in three counties.


Stan Clingerman, 34 years at the top of the hill.


Preserving Michigan’s historic bridges.


Three reps take their seats in the house.


Honors given at 2016 Highway Conference.


Midland County Road Commission tests out e-Construction.


Detailing Rural Task Force changes.

24 BRIDGING THE GAPS The real cost of permit.


Emily Hopper, Ironwood, Mich


Summer RUSH-PAC golf outings.

No part of this publication may be reproduced without permission of the editor and the County Road Association of Michigan. Opinions expressed by columnists and contributing authors are not necessarily those of the County Road Association of Michigan, its officers, employees or the editor. Advertisers and sponsors are solely responsible for the accuracy of information in their ads. © 2016, County Road Association of Michigan

Next Publication September 14-16 June 8-9 UP Road Builders Summer Meeting Featuring educational seminars and networking fun at the tip of the UP, the 2016 UP Road Builders Summer Meeting will be held at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge.


NMARC/ASMRC 4th Annual Joint Conference Join county road agencies from across Michigan for three days of general sessions, breakout sessions, the NMARC/ASMRC annual business meeting, networking opportunities and more. At the Boyne Mountain Resort.

The Fall issue of Crossroads will highlight best practices for winter maintenance and operations within county road agencies across the state. Winter 2015-2016 was mild and a reprieve for county road agencies, but don’t bank on those conditions next winter! Find out what new things county road agencies will be doing this coming winter.

Summer 2016


The Quarterly Journal of the County Road Association of Michigan

PRESIDENT’S CORNER First and foremost, I want to thank members of the County Road Association of Michigan (CRA) for the opportunity to serve as your president for 20162017. I look forward to a busy and productive year. CRA has made many positive changes to aid our members over the last several years and continues to work toward being the “go to voice” for road issues in the state of Michigan. My goal for the upcoming year is to capitalize on this momentum, continuing to move the organization forward in a positive manner for the association members, both in Lansing and locally. I must acknowledge up front, the written word is not my specialty. My staff would tell you I write like an engineer and “Jimanese” is not an acceptable form of written communication. And, yes, they use that word. For critical documents, my process is to summarize my thoughts, usually in the form of bullet points or numbering each idea. I then connect each of these points in fine “Jimanese” form, using words like THE, AND, ALSO, BECAUSE, FIRST, NEXT, etc.


Summer 2016

Once complete, I turn the document over to one of Marquette County Road Commission’s (MCRC) “master mechanics”. Mary Herman is our master mechanic in English, and one of Mary’s most important responsibilities at the MCRC is transforming “Jimanese” and “Jimisms” into understandable and acceptable English. To set the record straight, the articles I write for this magazine are, and will be, my thoughts, ideas and work product, reviewed and translated by Mary so you can better understand them. Now, I’m sure you’re wondering what writing like an engineer and having someone convert it to English has to do with CRA and county road agencies? It has everything to do with CRA and county road agencies, and here’s how. I firmly believe and have benefitted from the concept that one person acting independently may be successful, but a group of people coming together to collaborate and contribute toward a common goal will have a far greater chance of success. We all have strengths and often different perspectives. The County Road Association is an organization of sharing.

we as an Association will be and, in turn, the better the Association will be able to serve you and each of the member agencies. CRA is currently a strong, well-run Association. Your involvement will strengthen it moving forward. If you have questions, or think something needs to be addressed or changed, please let me know. My expectation is you will bring the issue to me in a positive manner with ideas and suggestions on how best to solve it, along with your willingness to get involved and work with us. Best wishes to all member agencies. I hope I have the opportunity to meet and interact with all of you over the next year. P.S. – I also speak “Jimanese” at times, so you may need a translator.

Jim Iwanicki CRA President Engineer-Manager of Marquette County Road Commission

The more people and local road agencies involved and contributing, the stronger


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The Quarterly Journal of the County Road Association of Michigan



Re-constructing a road commission and a reputation through innovation, collaboration and working across the lines Located in West Michigan near Big Rapids and one county from Lake Michigan shoreline, Newaygo County is a rural haven for agriculture, tourism and outdoor recreation. The county is large, having a total of 24 townships with a large portion of county’s land included in the Manistee National Forest. Although beautiful, of course state and federal lands do not contribute to road funding revenues. Named after the Chippewa Indian chief who signed the Treaty of Saginaw (1812), Newaygo County has over 230 lakes and 350 miles of rivers. It’s well-known for the Croton and Hardy dams, the latter being the largest earthen dam east of the Mississippi. And while the terrain isn’t particularly rough, the Newaygo County Road Commission (NCRC) has challenged itself over the last decade to smooth out its relationships while finding scarce funding opportunities. Collaboration, partnerships and innovations have been the key, according to Kelly Smith, NCRC manager.

Newaygo managing director Kelly Smith.

Finding money through community collaboration key to Newaygo Road Commission Kelly Smith took over as manager of NCRC in 2000. At the time “we had over 25 years of an ‘us v. them’ mentality. Newaygo County Road Commission versus the Newaygo County Board of Commissioners,” townships and other entities, said Smith, a 31-year veteran of NCRC. NCRC also had $60,000 in its checkbook and nearly $1 million owed to vendors. “We needed to find different revenue sources to survive,” Smith said. “Particularly in 2004-2005 when funding got real bad, it hit me: ‘Why are we doing this?’ This [poor relationships] was not good for our customers, for the people of Newaygo County or the road system,” Smith said. “It has taken time to mend fences, but the road commission is now working in the system’s best interest.” Mending fences has consisted of more NCRC collaboration with townships, the county commission, local police, the office of the drain commissioner, local schools and other entities. The combination of a new approach and tough fiscal times for governmental bodies in recent years has led to interesting partnerships for NCRC.


Summer 2016


g CONTRACTED SEASONAL COUNTY WORKFORCE – A challenge faced by many road commissions in tight fiscal times has been having enough certified operators on staff to quickly address winter conditions, while being unable to keep them employed the rest of the year. Skilled, reliable employees are likely to find more stable work. Newaygo found a creative solution in the Newaygo County Drain Commission. Because the drain commission staff does most of its work in spring through early fall, a few of their employees were being laid off annually. NCRC trained three drain commission staff and helped them attain Commercial Driver Licenses. Now NCRC gets the same three trained employees back every year, the employees have more job stability, and the county saves significant funds by not having to pay MESC the full freight for laid-off employees’ salaries and benefits. In summer, the drain commissioner often uses NCRC to maintain some of its ditches, culverts and do site design work – providing another income stream that helps balance the road commission’s bottom line. The arrangement goes one better than privatizing by maintaining consistent, qualified employees. It is a win-win-win for the road commission, the employees and the county, Smith said. g SELF-SERVICE ABOVE GROUND FUEL FACILITY – After the years-long spike in fuel prices and stagnant road funding, the Newaygo County Road Commission began discussing the concept of an above ground fueling facility as a means of saving money. In 2009, NCRC constructed an 18,000-gallon diesel tank and an 8000-gallon gas tank, for $240,000. Tank capacity equates to full-tanker-load discounts. In addition to fueling NCRC’s 54 vehicles, the facility has become an efficient fueling site for departments of public works, fire departments, police, school buses and other tax-free entities. NCRC charges them 8 cents a gallon over what it pays for the gas or diesel.


“We buy [retail] gas and diesel every time we get a load of fuel to compare to how we all purchased before,” Smith said. “We compare that price with what we’re charging and send a statement at year’s end to demonstrate the cost savings to them.” From 2009 to 2015 the combined savings for all entities buying direct from NCRC was $393,414. g HOUSING LAW ENFORCEMENT VEHICLES – Newaygo has also endeared itself to local police by allowing them to store the larger SWAT and emergency response vehicles in a secure location on NCRC property. Today the Newaygo County Road Commission is actively helping county government, the drain commissioner, the schools, local police and fire, and dozens of other collaborators.

“We get so many good residual benefits from that relationship. They might help me out with a right-of-way agreement. Kent County bids their reseal materials to include our projects, which helps drive prices down. It doubles the size of what went out to bid,” Smith said. Sign making and equipment/staff sharing are other benefits of the relationship. g NEWAYGO/MONTCALM/KENT/ IONIA COUNTY SEALING PROJECT – Winning a 2015 Impress Award for Operations, this project began looking at



Some of these relationships pay true dividends in small-but-important new revenue sources, and efficiencies that seem to follow. A far cry from ‘us vs. them.’

Newaygo County Road Commission

Partnering with other road commissions


Beyond county borders, Newaygo has learned from other road commissions by attending conferences and regional meetings. Smith represents the Northern Michigan Association of Road Commissions on CRA’s board.

Office HQ:

White Cloud 42 full time, 8 other

No. of commissioners: 3 (appt.) Miles of paved roads: 1415 = 343 primary + 1072 local Miles of unpaved roads: 694 = 9 primary + 685 local MDOT contract:


No. of bridges: 57

Some conversations with other road commissions have turned into innovations and cost savings.

Annual budget:

$10.5 million

Local revenue:

$4.5 million

g JOINT ENGINEERING DEPARTMENT – Due to budget challenges, NCRC’s formerly four-person engineering department dwindled to one technician by 2005. After bumpy attempts to work with consulting engineers, Smith began networking with the engineering director at the Kent County Road Commission (KCRC) – its neighbor to the south.

NCRC established: 1920

By 2009, they agreed a partnership would be beneficial. Today, the much-larger KCRC “does all of our engineering on federal aid projects and is a consultant on our bridge projects,” Smith said.

Annual snowfall:


Office built: 1976 Oldest vehicle: 1976 International, single-axle Total staff weight loss: 203 lbs. by 20 people (2013 challenge) BEST QUOTE: “If we don’t take pride in ourselves, no one else will.” - Kelly Smith, manager, Newaygo County Road Commission

Summer 2016


The Quarterly Journal of the County Road Association of Michigan

NCRC uses comp fund rebates to purchase safety equipment for workers. One interesting innovation occurred when NCRC noticed a stubborn occurrence of eye injuries.

joint operations to get road sealing work done more cost effectively. Due to declining road revenue, Newaygo and Ionia had either sold off or not invested in road sealing equipment over the years. Yet these four counties believed they could do simple resurfacing work more cost effectively with existing forces than hiring contractors.

leases, so our heavy equipment gets rotated out every fifth year for new. This allows us to have up-to-date and efficient equipment . It has also allowed us to reduce our number of mechanics from eight to four, and keeps our vehicles out on the road working.”

Cost savings were substantial and quality was consistently good, resulting in the Impress Award.

g BAR-CODED INVENTORY – Newaygo owns its entire vehicle parts inventory, and has recently converted to bar coding. The parts manager uses a grocery store-like set up to scan parts in and out. Magnetic bar code shelf labels and colorcoded stickers denoting the age of a part, complete the parts room upgrade.

Other improvements, self-assigned

Newaygo’s last two audits by the Michigan Treasury Department had 100 percent parts compliance, significantly better than previous audits, Smith said.

Finding the appropriate equipment still in the garage at Montcalm, the group set out to test its thesis.

Newaygo’s road commission has made other efficiencies and internal reforms in recent years, of which Smith is quite proud. g FLEET MAINTENANCE – “The current average age of our active truck fleet is eight years,” Smith said. “We lease all of our heavy equipment on five-year 8

Summer 2016

g VARIABLE-SCOPE ROAD PROJECT – NCRC and engineering partner KCRC approached the Michigan Department of Transportation about trying a “fixed price, variable scope” federal aid project last year.

Road agencies are always challenged to meet the tight financial specs on a road project, not knowing where the bids will ultimately land. Too-small projects can allow local dollars to get away. In brief, the variable-scope concept allows a road agency to pave a little bit longer or shorter section of road, depending on actual costs in the bid. The Cypress Road project allowed Newaygo to apply its total year’s funding appropriation without fear of breaching the 5 percent carryover limit. It was promoted by MDOT at the 2016 County Engineers’ Workshop. g SAVINGS THROUGH SAFETY – Newaygo has been on the CRASIF workers’ compensation program honor roll every year since the honor roll was created in 2011, and has been recognized annually since 2011 for its low modification factor rating. In its report card back to the community, NCRC notes workers’ comp and road commission self-insurance refunds of $175,259 for 2013, the most recent data available.

“We got rid of the ‘bug-eyed’ safety sunglasses and went with more stylish sunglasses costing about $5 more,” said Melissa Homrich, NCRC’s Safety Coordinator. “Then the drivers were actually willing to wear them and eye-related injuries have decreased significantly.”

Building community support – the fun way As part of its plan to improve its image county-wide, the Newaygo County Road Commission developed a fun Kids’ Day program that they take on the road up to nine times annually. “We set up a little road scene,” Homrich said. “We have kids use a pretend chainsaw to cut down a pretend tree. Then they practice flagging to slow the cars down. They also get to put a handprint with finger-paint on a plow blade, and climb in the front seat of the truck to get a better understanding of just how big the equipment is.” “Doing community events like Kids’ Day is one way we have been working on our image for the last 10 to 12 years,” Smith said. “We talk about how important image is with our people: The community needs to respect us – and today they do.” Crossroads


Summer 2016


The Quarterly Journal of the County Road Association of Michigan

AUTOMATIC VEHICLE LOCATOR SYSTEMS Back in the day, following “bread crumbs” was a Hansel and Gretel fairy tale description of how to find your way back home. Today “bread crumbs” refers to a trail of electronic data collected by GPS devices and merged with street mapping and a user interface to create an automatic vehicle locator (AVL) system. AVL systems debuted in the early 2000s, and first appeared as an option in General Motors mid-size fleet trucks in 2004. Now, AVLs are one of the newest management tools being adopted by county road commissions across Michigan. As with most tech innovations, there are many first-generation suppliers of AVL systems applicable to road agencies. Possibly up to a dozen different systems, some radio-based and some cellular/digital. Some of the original goals for AVL systems for county road agencies included improving fleet management and staff efficiency, but the benefits have leapfrogged ahead. Crossroads went on the road to visit three road commissions to learn more about how they were using AVL systems.


ia Alley

ACRC purchased new radios for 65 vehicles, and bought the Glimpse software outright for $20,000. Antrim has no annual operating costs for its AVL.

via tablets and one computer in the office.

“We bought the system so that the foreman would know where all our assets are at all times,” Thompson said. “It also helps in addressing the public’s concerns and questions during a weather event. We can tell callers when a truck is expected to come by.”

Shortcomings of Glimpse include the 2.5-minute cycle time for the data channel (separate from the voice channel), and its inability to incorporate equipment sensors. The system also shows only one vehicle at a time in the playback mode.

The data greatly increases the information to the foremen, who can better manage the fleet with this basic AVL system. It has three portals, allowing the foremen to access data

Stored data allows a “bread crumbs” history for each vehicle since Antrim implemented the system.

Moreover, Microsoft has discontinued MapPoint, requiring the Antrim County Road Commission to begin searching for its next-generation AVL.

Kristin Dronchi, clerk/office manager at the Newaygo County Road Commission explains their automatic vehicle locator monitor.

Beginning with a radio system In 2012, the Antrim County Road Commission (ACRC) purchased a Kenwood radio-based AVL. It uses a Glimpse operating system linked with Microsoft MapPoint geographic mapping software. “When we went to AVL it was largely because the radio system we were using in our trucks was ‘narrowbanded’ due to changes in the FCC regulations, when they sold off parts of the radio frequency band. We were forced to upgrade our radios,” said Burt Thompson, PE, engineer-manager of the Antrim County Road Commission.


Summer 2016


BRING EFFICIENCY THROUGH “BREAD CRUMBS” Bread crumbs and sensor readings The front office of the Newaygo County Road Commission (NCRC) has a prominent vertical TV monitor, which has various-colored “bread crumb” trails creeping across the surface. NCRC purchased the CompassCom AVL system with Motorola radio-based transponders, and CityWorks GIS mapping data in 2011. “This one is patching potholes. This one is stationary for now, and this vehicle is grading roads,” commented clerk/office manager Kristin Dronchi in using the color key to identify what each truck was doing. The sensors produce a different color “bread crumb” when engaged and the color of the truck will change. The ability to change the “bread crumb” trail and truck color makes it easier to follow each vehicle and know exactly what it is doing, at first glance. NCRC uses eight sensors per vehicle: g g g g g

Blade up/down Sander on, blade down Ignition on/off Sander on/off Speed

Newaygo wanted to use the AVL system as an added safety device, so a panic button was installed. A driver can hit the button and a message box will pop up on the screen, letting the user know which driver hit the button. The driver is then contacted and if there is no response, the foreman can go to the location. The panic message does not leave the screen until the user clears the message. From the very beginning, the AVL system has been welcomed by NCRC staff. The drivers viewed AVL as a source of protection


and an added safety precaution. For management and office staff, the system has become a major part of the effort to improve efficiencies. The system costs $54,000 initially, and $2,400 annually. The software is housed on Newaygo County’s 911 phone system at no charge. Area fire and the county sheriff’s department also pay a proportional amount to monitor their fleets through the software. When it comes to NCRC trucks, unfortunately, some roads in Newaygo don’t get good cell service and the “bread crumbs” will not transmit. CompassCom will store the signals for several minutes and when the truck comes back into range all the “bread crumbs” will appear on the monitor at once. Newaygo’s AVL provides valuable timelapse visual mapping reports that show vehicle patterns over time, which got the attention of NCRC manager Kelly Smith. “When I started looking at those reports I could see that our plow routes needed to be re-aligned,” Smith said. “Our goal is to do the highways first, then the primary roads and then the local roads. The ‘bread crumbs’ showed that one of our trucks in the northwest corner was well into his local roads while the other guys were still clearing off highways,” Smith said. “We were able to re-adjust the routes to provide more equitable service throughout the county.”

Tim Trudell, fleet/facilities manager at GTCRC points out one of the AVL sensors on a vehicle, and explains how the road commission overcame weather-sensitive electronics.

Going digital with AVL Grand Traverse County Road Commission (GTCRC) recently updated its AVL system, going to a fully digital and cellbased system. The road commission is using the Webtech® fleet management system from Canada, in partnership with an AT&T cellular system. The cellular feature updates data every 10 seconds – sooner if a sensored feature mobilizes in between the 10-second intervals – and the approximate address of each truck at that reading. GTCRC bought the system in 2013 to equip 46 vehicles. It cost $68,000 plus $5-$12 per truck per month for the cellular telemetry devices. The devices can be moved between vehicles or shut off for nonwinter months, which saves the monthly fee.

Summer 2016


The Quarterly Journal of the County Road Association of Michigan

Webtech® accommodates sensors that indicate: g g g g g g g g g g g

plow up/down scraper up/ down wing extended/not speed compass direction truck on/off/idling and time stamp surface temperature of road ambient air temperature truck operator’s name sand/salt application blast detail

Soon GTCRC will be able to track salt use per truck via the sensors. The system has provided benefits beyond original expectations, according to GTCRC manager Jim Cook, superintendent Toby Javin and fleet manager Tim Trudell. MORE RESPONSIVE TO PUBLIC CONCERNS. “The crew was very concerned about the ‘big brother’ aspect of AVLs initially and we had to work through that,” Javin said. “In fact, it has proved to be quite a tool for the defense of our workers.” “When someone calls and says ‘your truck was going 60 miles an hour down my road’ or ‘you knocked my mailbox over,’ we are able to say our actual speed and whether we were even on that road today,” Javin said. GTCRC has the system set up to send an e-mail to the office whenever a truck drives over 62 mph for more than one minute, and when a truck sits idle for a certain amount of time. “That allows us to contact the truck to see if there’s a problem,” Trudell said. MANAGEMENT THROUGH GEOFENCING. If there is a concern about a resource being misused, fleet manager Trudell can set up a geofence. That is a “virtual” fence around a certain section of the county. Then whenever a truck goes to a certain place, an e-mail is generated to the home office. WHEN YOU COMING BY? “It snows a lot in Grand Traverse and sometimes people leave for work in the morning and our plow hasn’t been there. And by the time they come home at night, it has snowed or blown so much the tracks are filled in again. 12

Summer 2016

People will call and say that we haven’t plowed that street. Our receptionist can simply look it up on the computer while the caller is still on the phone, and indicate when we last did their street,” Cook related. Similar data is also helpful when the public indicates a GRCRC truck has been sitting in one place for too long. “The system has reduced complaint calls in the office, and particularly our frequent caller individuals,” Cook concluded. “It has absolutely been helpful to our crew,” Javin agreed. ACCIDENT REPORT DATA. The report feature has been helpful in accident reports, by providing an historical account of exactly what the vehicle was doing, Cook said. “People always think trucks are moving faster than they really are.” MAJOR EFFICIENCY IN ROAD MAINTENANCE. A somewhat unexpected benefit is the improved efficiencies GTCRC has achieved by adopting Webtech® and training employees to use it. GTCRC has a 50-inch monitor and four computer terminals set up in the breakroom for its driving crew, some of whom will check into the system and some do not. “We want it to be available to the guys so they can see what was done on the shift before them,” said Jarvis. “Our guys coming onto their shift in the middle of a snow event now know which end of their route to start on.

range of $2.2 to $2.4 million for our annual winter budget since we began using the AVL system.” “The system has been huge from a cost perspective,” Cook said. “Some of it is the technology and some of it is our managers being able to be better managers by using the data.” WEATHER DATA. In addition to viewing routes and route history, GTCRC road crew staff use the monitors to check where MDOT trucks are plowing, to view incoming weather and to check surface and ambient air temperatures from vehicle mounted temperature sensors, as weather can vary significantly across the county. GTCRC shares the data, particularly data from its temperature sensors, during a snow event to assist local school districts in making the decisions regarding delays or snow days. FLEET MAINTENANCE. One of the challenges of the system has been the sensitivity of the sensors and wires. They can get cut, caught in brackets or simply damaged by the intense salty environment, Trudell said. GTCRC has worked with local mechanics to identify a more appropriate type of wire and sensor placement to make the system more durable in brutal winter weather conditions.

“What we learned in implementing the system, was that the next shift crew always began at the top of the route and sometimes plowed off the sand and salt that the previous crew had just put down. That was very frustrating to our crew, but they didn’t have the data to do anything different,” Jarvis said. Manager Cook cites efficiencies in winter costs over the last three years. “In the epic winter of 2013-14, our winter expenditures were $2.2 million. That’s $1 million less than we spent for each of the three previous winters, on average,” Cook said. “We used to spend $3.2 million a year, and we are now in the

Grand Traverse County Road Commission manager Jim Cook and superintendent Toby Javin look at one of the breakroom monitors displaying the county’s AVL system.


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Summer 2016


The Quarterly Journal of the County Road Association of Michigan

Thirty-four years at the top An interview with Stan Clingerman, retired manager of Hillsdale County Road Commission In mid-January, Stan Clingerman retired after 40 years at the Hillsdale County Road Commission (HCRC). He was managing director for 34 of those years, taking over the top job at the tender age of 29.


Crossroads caught up with Clingerman – who is still working part-time as HCRC’s county highway engineer for the next few years. CROSSROADS: What was your background before joining HCRC? STAN CLINGERMAN (SC): I earned a B.S. in civil engineering magna cum laude at the University of Michigan. I didn’t know anyone at the Hillsdale County Road Commission, but I stopped by in 1974 looking for a summer job and was hired on the spot by Marvin Campbell to work in the Engineering Department. I came back in the summer of 1975, and then after I graduated I was offered a fulltime assistant engineer job in January 1976. I earned my PE in 1980 under Roy Rodd’s tutelage, and when he moved north in 1982 I was promoted to engineer-manager. That same year I got married and bought a house. It was quite a year! CROSSROADS: After 34 years as engineer-manager, you’ve seen some changes. What were some of them? SC: The paperwork! (gesturing toward a full file drawer for the 2016 season) When I started, MDOT required only a 1-page annual list of federal aid projects. Now we have loads of paperwork, mandatory public meetings, planners, the RTF process – and still the public doesn’t attend! We also have significantly fewer staff – from 75 down to 40 – and we’re trying to do all the same services. Technology has also changed pretty significantly. Of course we had no 14

Summer 2016

computers when we opened this office, and all of our plans were on paper. Now we have much more efficient electronic work stations and software to generate good data, good budgets and tracking systems. CROSSROADS: You say the public doesn’t attend meetings on roads. Has this changed over the years? SC: I don’t know if the interest level has changed. But the public is definitely more demanding today. Homeowners don’t seem to want to do anything for themselves. They call us up to cut down the brush, clean out their culverts and other tasks that people used to do for themselves. One trick I’ve learned over the years is to visit the frequent complainers. It calms them down when you go to where they are, or where the problem is, and meet with them one-on-one. CROSSROADS: Any disappointments about the job? SC: One disappointment over my tenure is that most of our gravel roads are still actually dirt roads. We have been unable to significantly improve the gravel roads in Hillsdale County due to the funding situation. CROSSROADS: Any particular disasters come to mind? SC: The biggest calamity I can remember is the blizzard of 1978. Hillsdale County had 20-plus inches of snow. I couldn’t get to

work until the second day when our crew came to get me with two plows. A close second was the March 2013 ice storm. My 15-minute commute took over an hour due to downed trees. Then when I got to work, our power transformers were smoking. We were without power for a week as were most of our employees. That was a horrendous week. CROSSROADS: What achievement are you most proud of? SC: Well, I have always been blessed with a good staff in the office and experienced workers who knew how to build roads. We paved many miles of roads. My staff and crews made me look good. But the achievement I’m most proud of is getting our garages and our employees out of downtown Hillsdale and into quality facilities. Hillsdale’s road commission is located on a 35-acre parcel that was purchased in the 1960s. The current office building was built in 1973. In 1994 we built our truck barn, and in 2001 we constructed the repair garage. We have five times the space, a more central location and we did it all without bonding or borrowing.

In honor of his long career, the MDOT Hill-Jo Bicycle Park was re-named the Stanley L. Clingerman Bicycle Park this winter.


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Summer 2016


The Quarterly Journal of the County Road Association of Michigan

A piece of history HISTORIC



An historic bridge in Shiawassee County is getting a new lease on life in a new location. The Martin Road Bridge is moving to a new home in Delaware. Last fall Brent Friess, superintendent of Shiawassee County Road Commission, received a call from the Auburn Heights Preserve offering to buy the bridge for one dollar. The road commission approved the sale and received the one dollar check. “It’s a chance for the Martin Bridge to live on and be preserved,” said Friess. “This group is willing to spend the money to remove the bridge, preserve it to its original state and move it to Delaware so it could be used again.” The North Skunk River Greenbelt Association/Workin’ Bridges is removing the bridge on behalf of the Auburn Heights Preserve, restoring it to its original state and then moving it. The bridge will be part of the Governor’s First Trail System in Yorklyn, Delaware. Historic bridges from across the country are being used to link the non-motorized, pedestrian trails throughout the preserve. SCRC had plans to replace the Martin Road Bridge a few years ago using Critical Bridge funds. Due to local interest in restoring the bridge, plans were halted. The road commission agreed to repair the bridge if matching funds were raised to pay the costs.


Summer 2016


Bridging the Gaps Fundraising efforts failed, leaving the Martin Road Bridge stagnant until recent interest in restoring and moving it.


“There have been attempts to raise funds to refurbish the Martin Road Bridge, but to no avail,” said Friess. “The road commission owned the bridge and would have been responsible if it had to be removed for safety or environmental reasons or if it collapsed into the Shiawassee River.”


If the bridge fell into the river, the SCRC would have spent about $50,000 to remove it. Moving and restoring the Martin Road Bridge will cost an estimated $600,000.

A panel of representatives from Kalamazoo, Lapeer and Washtenaw county road commissions discussed how they updated their permits in a way that recouped the full cost of the permits, and the steps they followed in making a top-to-bottom review of permit fees.

North Skunk River Greenbelt Association/Workin’ Bridges is a non-profit organization dedicated to historic truss bridge and greenbelt preservation.

Bridges all over the country are starting to be saved by preservation efforts. It is a testament to our history that we can show people, not tell them, how to save their bridges.” – Julie Bower, executive director of North Skunk River Greenbelt Association / Workin’ Bridges

“We are saving these bridges when no one else has the money, expertise and determination to do so,” said Julie Bower, executive director of North Skunk River Greenbelt Association/Workin’ Bridges. Built in 1885, the Caldedonia Township bridge was closed to traffic in 1987 and deemed no longer safe for pedestrian use in the early 2000’s. Martin Road Bridge is one of the oldest metal through truss bridges in Michigan and the only one built by the Mount Vernon Bridge Company of Ohio. The Martin Road Bridge will be renamed the Snuff Mill Bridge once it has been restored and moved to its new location. The bridge’s history also will be recognized with signage sharing its story and offering thanks to Shiawassee County for the purchase of the bridge. “We expect to have the Martin Road Bridge in place at the Auburn Heights Preserve by this time next year,” said Bower. micountyroads.org

“What’s the real cost of a permit?” That was the question asked and answered at the 2016 Highway Conference.

Suggestions were offered for adjusting fees to better reflect current costs. The agenda covered road agencies’ authority under Michigan law to levy permit fees. Setting permit fees was the bulk of the session including a plan to determine a road commission’s current fee structure and collection process. Panelists also provided guidelines to determine if current fees are in line with other road agencies in the region. Deputy director Ed Noyola talked about pressure from the telecommunications industry and the Legislature for road agencies to create uniformity throughout the permitting process. The challenge, Noyola said, is that a good compromise is not a solution that will make anyone truly happy.

SETTING PERMIT FEES – STEP-BY-STEP g Review existing fees g Review related policies and regulations g Estimate actual costs g Calculate new estimated costs g Team review of hours and costs g Board review of final recommendation g Public hearing g Board approved

For more information, visit micountyroads.org/CRA2016HwyConf Summer 2016


The Quarterly Journal of the County Road Association of Michigan


NEW REPS ARE IN THE HOUSE This month we introduce the three new legislators recently sworn into office. In giving our members the chance to become more familiar with each as they begin their terms, we encourage you to reach out to introduce yourself and let your voice be heard. Ed Noyola, CRA’s deputy directory, asked the new representatives about their experiences with local road commissions, the transportation issues they would like to address and to share a few words with our members.

#1 CRA: What experience have you had with your local road commission? REP. MARY WHITEFORD, DISTRICT 80: I have met with my local road commissioners regularly over the past few years. We have a great working relationship, and I look forward to hearing their input on important issues regarding local transportation. REP. DAVID LAGRAND, DISTRICT 75: I am from a very urban district in Grand Rapids. I was a City Commissioner a few years ago, and therefore have spent a good deal of time addressing road and highway issues in my city. I was supportive of the retention of our local income tax to fund local streets and sidewalks. REP. GARY HOWELL, DISTRICT 82: I served as chairman of the Lapeer County Road Commission until my election to the House in 2016. Prior to my election to the road commission in 2012, I served as a township attorney for almost 40 years. Therefore, I’ve had extensive experience dealing with road projects.


Summer 2016

#2 CRA: With transportation funding somewhat resolved, what transportation issues would you like to address during your term? REP. WHITEFORD: It’s really important to me to make sure my county, cities, villages and townships have the resources to support transportation. I will work hard to be their liaison in Lansing. REP. LAGRAND: I am interested in finding better ways to mitigate wetlands destruction and learning more about how we can create and improve wetland banks. In addition, I am interested in improving the coordination between road repair efforts and upgrading our underground infrastructure. REP. HOWELL: One particular transportation issue of immediate concern involves pipelines and other utilities using the road right-of-way. The current KWA pipeline construction has caused unreasonable interference with residents and road usage. Our road commission has been forced to spend a great deal of money trying to force KWA to live up to its commitments. #3 CRA: Any thoughts you would like to share with CRA members? REP. WHITEFORD: I was so honored to have the support of my county road commissioners throughout my election, and I look forward to working together for the people of Allegan County. REP. LAGRAND: I continue to be deeply concerned that we still are not committing the funds necessary to stabilize road conditions, let alone improve them. REP. HOWELL: As a former road commissioner, I hope to bring some practical experience in dealing with road issues in the Legislature.

REP. GARY HOWELL Gary Howell’s political career began in law school when he was elected township trustee in Genesee Township in the early 1970s. He served in many local elected positions throughout his 40 year law career, including the Lapeer County Road Commission. Howell won an 11-candidate primary to be the Republican nominee for state representative of the 82nd district. Howell and his wife Cheryl live on a farm in the North Branch area. He raises alfalfa and Hereford cattle with his son, John. REP. MARY WHITEFORD Mary Whiteford worked as a registered nurse in pediatric neurosurgery and emergency before starting an accounting business with her husband. Now they run a financial planning firm. Whiteford was an active volunteer in children’s schools and appointed to the Michigan Women’s Commission where she raised awareness for human trafficking. Whiteford and her husband Kevin live in Casco Township. REP. DAVID LAGRAND Prior to being sworn into the Michigan House of Representatives, David LaGrand served on the Grand Rapids City Commission and Board of Education. As a small business owner, he started a construction firm in college, a coffee shop in 1994 and a bakery in 2002. LaGrand practiced as an attorney, and then served eight years as Kent County Assistant Prosecutor. Afterward, he co-founded two private law firms. He lives in Grand Rapids with his wife Melissa and their four children.


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The Quarterly Journal of the County Road Association of Michigan


IMPRESS AWARDS Every year, CRA’s county road agencies are honored for best practices in operations and communications with the Impress Awards. The 2015 Impress Awards – awarded a few weeks ago at the 2016 Highway Conference – were selected from a record number of submissions. They were judged independently by a panel of communications and operations experts. This year there were 10 Impress operations winners, five Impress communications winners. Additionally, show attendees voted for the “People’s Choice Award,” one in each category. For more information on the winning projects and all other entries, visit My CRA at micountyroads.org, and look for the Impress Awards page at the left edge of the screen. There you will find all submission materials, narratives describing the project, relevant photos, media coverage and more.

Who took home the honors at the 2016 Highway Conference?



g Berrien County Road Commission – Automated Road Maintenance Project Spreadsheet

g Road Commission of Kalamazoo County – Texas Township Road Tour

g Grand Traverse County Road Commission – Cut-Out Weighing Scale g Kent, Newaygo, Montcalm and Ionia County Road Commissions – Chip Seal Program g Road Commission of Kalamazoo County – D Avenue Chip Seal Trial Program g Kalkaska County Road Commission – Garage on Wheels g Kent County Road Commission – Innovative Joint Maintenance g Marquette County Road Commission – Team Management Concept g Midland County Road Commission – Public/Private Partnerships g Muskegon County Road Commission – “Home Brew” Hot Mix

g Kent County Road Commission – KCRC Brand Update g Marquette County Road Commission – Safe, Effective and Efficient Wing Plow Use g Saginaw County Road Commission – Informational Reference Guide g Washtenaw County Road Commission – P.A. 283 Road Millage Outreach

2015 IMPRESS AWARDS PEOPLE’S CHOICE WINNERS g Operations Category – Marquette County Road Commission for Team Management Concept g Communications Category – Marquette County Road Commission for Safe, Effective and Efficient Wing Plow Use

g Roscommon County Road Commission – Living Snow Fence


Summer 2016



Summer 2016


The Quarterly Journal of the County Road Association of Michigan


e-Construction coming soon to a road agency near you

Since 2015, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) has been working through the kinks in its new “e-Construction” process. e-Construction is a paperless contract administration and project delivery system that is transforming road construction.

road agencies are just getting acquainted with the process and many are getting ready for the transition. The Midland County Road Commission (MCRC) was the first county road agency to use e-Construction on a project, and was pleased with the process.

It is the collection, review, approval, and distribution of highway construction contract documents in a secure, paperless environment.

Terry Palmer, PE, new managing director at MCRC, and Art Buck, MCRC engineering technician, recognized the mandatory move to e-Construction was just on the horizon. With recently upgraded computers, MCRC had everything it needed to make e-Construction work, so they jumped in.

g Electronically capturing construction data g Electronic submission of all construction documentation g Increased use of mobile devices g Increased automation of document review and approval g Essential use of electronic signatures by all parties throughout the process g Secure document and workflow management accessible to all stakeholders on any device. Gone will be the days of sending piles of paper back and forth for processing and signatures, as every document associated with e-Construction is stored online, accessible from anywhere. While MDOT has seen success with e-Construction in its own projects, county


Summer 2016

“We knew that e-Construction was coming in the not-so-distant future, and figured why not jump on board and see what happens,” Buck said. “We offered to MDOT to pilot it as a local agency and they granted us the opportunity.” MCRC is using e-Construction on two projects, a bridge replacement on Coleman Road and an ultra-thin HMA overlay. They have experienced the promises of e-Construction come to fruition: shorter approval times, less paperwork, faster processing, and increased accountability. “e-Construction is great. No more bulky file folders, no bumbling through stacks of paperwork trying to find something, and the flow of documents is fast,” said Buck.

“Also the accountability that comes with it is nice.” “ProjectWise tracks every document right from its creation, so there’s no guessing where it is, who has viewed it and what changes have been made,” Buck concluded. As far as hurdles in making the transition to go paperless, MCRC said there were few to none. Learning the file system and getting everyone on board with the standard naming convention for the files were the biggest challenges. When asked what advice MCRC had for other counties considering e-Construction, Buck recommended making the switch sooner than later. “I would encourage everyone to get on board. Once you make the transition in your mind that out-with-the-old and in-with-thenew, it all makes sense,” Buck said. “It just takes that commitment that ‘I’m going to learn this,’ and once you do, I’m certain you won’t want to go back to the old system.”

MAKE THE MOVE! MDOT is actively seeking participants to use e-Construction. For more information, contact Cliff Farr at farrc@michigan.gov.



Summer 2016


Key transitions at… Road Commissions and Departments

Changing Lanes

Jason Melancon has been promoted to manager/ superintendent of the Otsego County Road Commission (OCRC). Tom Deans, PE, is serving as OCRC engineer. Melancon had previously served as county foreman. Angela Kline, PE, has expanded her responsibilities to serve as engineering director at Jackson County Department of Transportation. Jim Novak was appointed to the Lapeer County Road Commission. Bill Leutzow has been appointed to the Marquette County Road Commission. Gary Tate was appointed as commissioner to the Oceana County Road Commission.

… CRA Kristi Peña, CRA office manager, left the Association on April 30, after four years of service. She has taken a position down the hall as Assistant Administrator-CFO for the Michigan County Road Commission SelfInsurance Pool (MCRCSIP). Christina Strong has been hired as the new CRA communication specialist. 24

Summer 2016

Mile Markers Gary Howell, Lapeer County Road Commissioner and chairman, was elected State Representative for the 82nd District. Pat Wierzbicki, deputy secretary/clerk and chair of CRA’s Resolutions Committee, retired from the Road Commission for Oakland County.

In Memoriam On February 12, 2016, Russell Eilers, Oceana County Road Commissioner (OCRC) and chairman passed away. Eilers had also worked at OCRC for 23 years. On February 13, 2016, Susan Crowell longtime employee of the Alpena County Road Commission passed away. Harold Smith, Jr., of West Branch passed away March 6. Smith served as president of the County Road Association of Michigan in 1973. On April 7, 2016, Iron County Road Commission (ICRC) commissioner Joe Sabol passed away unexpectedly. Sabol served as a road commissioner for six years, and was previously a long-time ICRC employee.


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Summer 2016


The Quarterly Journal of the County Road Association of Michigan

More details on

RURAL TASK FORCES CHANGES 2016 will bring big changes to the Rural Task Force (RTF) program. Phase one of the RTF Oversight Board’s work is complete, and many positive changes are being implemented now. CRA’s voting representatives on the RTF Oversight Board are Wayne Schoonover, Mason County Road Commission, and CRA president Jim Iwanicki, Marquette County Road Commission. They’ve been driving change to the RTF process along with representatives from MDOT, transit and municipalities. A summary of changes are found in the Winter 2015

CRA: Jim, we’d like to start by thanking you – and Wayne – for all your work to ensure county road voices are heard during in the RTF revamp. Jim Iwanicki (JI): I can’t say it was all fun, but it needed to be done. Our number-one focus was to make sure the rules are reasonable land that there are no winners or losers from this point forward. Funding is possibly the largest issue county road agencies face, and this issue is all about funding and making sure that if a county follows the rules your project will be funded. We need programs that make sense and 26

Summer 2016

issue of Crossroads (micountyroads.org/ Newsroom/CrossroadsMagazine). They were also presented at the 2016 Highway Conference by Iwanicki, MDOT director of transportation planning Dave Wresinski and MDOT transportation planning manager Pamela Boyd. Those presentations may be reviewed at michiganrtf. com/training-resources. Crossroads sat down with Iwanicki, who also chairs the RTF board’s education committee, to talk about the bigger picture behind the RTF changes.

are flexible at the county level, and our hope is that these changes improve the program for everyone. CRA: What are the overarching goals you hope to see met as these changes take effect? JI: In the past, you would hear a lot about the workarounds, flaws and loopholes in the RTF fund distribution process. There is also a lack of accountability at times – agencies are often left wondering who to blame when something goes wrong, and who to thank when things are working out right. We want to see more consistency, transparency

and accountability first and foremost. The fund distribution process should be a well-oiled machine that when road agencies are following the rules, they are receiving the support they deserve. We believe the changes being implemented make that a reality. CRA: How are the new changes already affecting county road agencies’ 2016 projects? How can counties be better prepared? JI: County road agencies should have received new allocation estimates to work with from their regional planners in early April. They should be well into arranging RTF meetings to make sure projects are on target. And they should be making sure to have complete biddable packages August 1, 2016. Any complete biddable package received by MDOT by August 1, will be funded. The best way road agencies can prepare for this is to make sure they are communicating with other counties, and reaching out where there is any kind of confusion. The RTF Oversight Board along with its Education Committee has launched a website with information on changes coming to the fund distribution process.

materials from the Highway Conference and some handy links. CRA: Now that the major changes we’ve been talking about are being seen by county road agencies, what kind of reactions have you been hearing? JI: As with any new process, there is a learning curve and not everyone likes change. But those who are investing the time into learning the changes early and focusing on how they will put them to use in their workflow will see ensure that all the projects that they planned will be funded. CRA: Do you have anything else you’d like to add? JI: Just that the RTF process is an evolving, changing thing. Nothing is completely set in stone yet, but the more cooperation and communication we get from everyone, the better the future will be. The Oversight Board is committed to revisiting the program every year and making changes as needed.

Visit the education resources website for the RTF Oversight Board at MichiganRTF.com.

Find it at MichiganRTF.com. The website already has rules and guidelines as well as some Crossroads

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Summer 2016


The Quarterly Journal of the County Road Association of Michigan

EDITOR’S NOTE “What’s the next Flint?” was one of the audience questions during the media panel at our 2016 Highway Conference back in March. That question has continued to cross my mind. The answer, of course, is that no one really knows what or where the next “Flint” will be – or how much it will cost. And certainly our Michigan Legislature doesn’t know either. Yet there are a few things we know about Michigan’s political future as it pertains to transportation. We can be very appreciative that a large portion of the road funding stalemate was resolved before Flint’s lead-in-thewater crisis boiled over. Because Flint took all the air, light and available money out of the Legislature. In the current environment, road funding would simply be brushed aside while Flint is resolved. We know the date when road improvements associated with the increase in transportation funding will begin is 2017. However, a few county road agencies are in a position to advance construct and begin projects this year. We know that in the meantime, roads will likely get worse before they get better. We know that every road agency – including the state, counties and cities – must be very transparent and have frequent communication through community planning meetings, town halls and township meetings to let the public and legislators know how new funds will be used. We know we need to work with our communities to develop road and bridge asset management plans. All of this builds the trust that is needed to ensure the $600 million in General Fund revenues for roads comes our way


Summer 2016

for road repairs – rather than to “the next Flint.” CRA is appreciative that in the wake of the Flint crisis, the governor has continued his focus on improving Michigan’s infrastructure – including roads – by appointing the 21st Century Transportation Infrastructure Commission. The Commission will probably have its first meetings about the time this Crossroads hits the street. Since early April, your executive committee and board have jumped in to be sure that CRA is involved in meetings and workgroups, and provides relevant data and resources to the commission. CRA’s executive committee will serve as the county road agencies’ clearinghouse of information, with Steve Warren, managing director of the Kent County Road Commission and CRA board vice chair, heading up this effort. The objective of your executive committee and board is to coordinate the dissemination of information and messaging to the Infrastructure Commission to ensure that CRA speaks with one voice. Please let our office know if you have good working relationships with any 21st Century Infrastructure Commission members, and work with the CRA office or the executive committee if you have information, questions or other contact with the commission. As always, our voice is strongest when we work together. That’s another thing we know.

Highway conference by the numbers The 2016 Highway Conference has officially come and gone! It was the largest Highway Conference on record. By the numbers ….

Total attendees:


“Road Show” Exhibitors:


Breakout Sessions:


CEU credits earned:


IMPRESS Awards made:


Presidents who had to read 17 IMPRESS Awards:


Total CRA staff, volunteers who pulled it off:


Thanks to everyone who attended! See you in 2017! Denise Donohue, CAE, APR

2017 Highway Conference March 14-16, 2017 Crossroads

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RUSH-PAC Golf Outings Will Soon be in Full Swing! The sun is finally shining and the grass is green, which can only mean one thing: It’s time for RUSH-PAC annual golf outings. Get ready to hit the greens and support your PAC this summer! RUSH-PAC golf outings are the perfect opportunity to get out and network with contributors who have a shared interest in Michigan’s transportation industry. For more on individual outings, use the contact information below, or visit micountyroads.org/Events.


WEDNESDAY, JUNE 15 Friends of Transportation RUSH-PAC Golf Outing Moss Ridge Golf Course 13545 Apple Ave., Ravenna Amy Johnson, Muskegon CRC 231.788.7222 ajohnson@muskegoncountyroads.org FRIDAY, JULY 8 Urban Council Golf Outing The Links of Novi 50395 W. 10 Mile Rd., Novi Dave Czerniakowski, RCOC 248.645.2000 x4799 - dczerniakows@rcoc.org FRIDAY, JULY 29 Southern Mid-Michigan RUSH-PAC Golf Outing The Emerald Golf Course 2300 W. Maple Rapids Rd., St. Johns Jeff Ely, AIS Equipment 517.204.2127 - jely@aisequip.com TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 13 19th Annual Northern RUSH-PAC Golf Outing Schuss Mountain Golf Course 1826 Schuss Mountain Ln., Mancelona Burt Thompson, Antrim CRC 231.587.8521 x11 - bthompson@antrimcrc.org Summer 2016



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Crossroads Summer 2016 Quarterly Journal  

Crossroads Summer 2016 Quarterly Journal  


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