With recent state budget cuts taking a bite out of road maintenance funding, some in Ann Arbor are worrying about slick streets for the winter ahead.

Michigan Department of Transportation Spokeswoman Keri Arend said the cuts have forced lawmakers to change plowing policies.

She said if a storm has ended the state will no longer pay drivers overtime or reimburse the city to plow and salt secondary roads, like Washtenaw Avenue and Main Street. Instead, plow drivers will wait to finish clearing the street until their next shift.

But Arend noted that during an ongoing storm the state will continue to pay drivers to work overtime.

“If we get another storm overnight, if we get a refreeze, we could send our trucks out there again,” she said. “During a storm, motorists are not going to see any difference. Just on these secondary routes, you could see a little more snow than in past years.”

However, Ann Arbor City Council member Leigh Greden (D – Ward 3) said the city is responsible for making sure all roads are clear, not the state.

He said the state will no longer reimburse the city for plowing major roads such as Washtenaw Avenue and Main Street, as it had done in the past.

Greden said the city of Ann Arbor is prepared to continue paying truck drivers to work overtime to make sure streets are as clear as they have been in the past.

“You almost always use overtime when you plow the streets because you can’t just plow it nine to five, it doesn’t work that way,” he said.

Greden said that even in these difficult financial times, the city intends to spend the extra money to ensure the streets are plowed.

“It’ll cost more money, but we recognize that plowing streets from ice and snow is a critical function of local government,” he said. “We face a very challenging budget environment, but we also are far better off than most governments in the entire state.”

Arend said the state is trying to conserve resources this year after a record snowfall pushed the winter road maintenance over budget.

Last winter, many states in the Midwest experienced road salt shortages due to the heavy snowfall, causing salt prices to soar.

This winter, Arend said MDOT has built a large salt stockpile. Greden said the city has also stocked up.

Dennis Brewer, the owner of Brewer’s Towing, which services the Ann Arbor area, said he wasn’t sure how the state funding cut would affect his business.

“Until it happens, I don’t know,” he said. “I know that we’ve experienced a couple little snowfalls this winter and some of these people act like they’ve never seen snow before. I’ve heard from some people they don’t think it’s going to be nearly as bad as what a lot of people are trying to make it out to be. I’m hoping that’s the case.”

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