plowing snow

GRAND HAVEN — Ottawa County road commissioners voted to expand a contract with Countryside Snowplowing, The Grand Rapids Press reported.

The county spent more than $95,000 for private plowing services last year, which was only slightly less than the county’s in-house costs to provide the services. However, because of the contract, the county will not have to hire temporary workers in the winter who would then be laid off in the summer, according to The Press. Snow removal employees have typically been assigned to local construction projects during the warmer months, although Ottawa County has seen a drop in those projects. Since officials have not used the layoff process in the past, they decided it may be best to contract out for some of their snow removal services instead. This saves the commission money in the summer months, even if the cost of snow removal is comparable.

The road commission originally hired the company to plow 82 miles of county roads. The new contract extends the area covered to 192.5 miles, according to The Press.

Officials have used the private sector to solve human resource problems, too. According to road commission Operations Director Gerald Diekema, the private snow removers can apply their services on a case-by-case basis to serve immediate needs. For instance, Muskegon County hired private contractors to plow its low-priority roads to get the streets cleared quicker than it would otherwise.

It’s worth noting that in the past the state of Michigan contracted with a private company to provide snow plowing and maintenance for 24 miles of I-496, U.S. 27 and some Lansing roads. One of the most important lessons to emerge from that experiment was the importance of gathering data by which to measure the success or failure of a privatization effort before entering a contract. For more on this subject, see the November 1999 Around the State entry, "MDOT Snafu Could Halt Further Road Maintenance Privatization" at
www.mackinac.org/2562 or the 2001 article, "State Ends Contract with ABC Paving Company" at
www.mackinac.org/3515.

Reference: The Grand Rapids Press, "County expands plans for private plowing," June 15, 2007