DPW director: It’s winter — drive like it

HOUGHTON – After a slow start to the winter, the Houghton Department of Public Works now has to contend with an overload of snow.

Plows and sanders have been working double shifts since the unrelenting snowfall began last week, said Houghton Public Works Director Mark Zenner.

With temperatures expected to rise into the 30s this weekend, the streets will get narrower, Zenner said. He urged drivers to be cautious.

“This is the old way the weather used to be,” he said after Wednesday’s Houghton City Council meeting. “A lot of people that have moved here have never experienced this … You have to change your pattern. And plowing – people plowing across the road, putting it where they shouldn’t be, causing a traffic hazard. The state’s getting on us because they see it, so then in turn we’ve got to crack down on who’s doing it.”

With the deluge of the past week bringing the year’s snowfall closer to historical norms, Zenner said it’ll mean another tight winter budgetwise.

“It’ll be a typical winter where you’re scraping by, looking at the end of March and April to see where you are with budgets,” he said. “We’ll be running for a couple of weeks now just to get caught up.”

Wednesday, the council approved the purchase of a used grader for $86,000, counting trade-in, to replace a city grader on its last legs.

Zenner said the 2002 grader would be a significant upgrade over the department’s 1986 grader. The city recently had to send in the grader for $7,000 in repairs.

“We’re on borrowed time,” he said.

Zenner said he has looked at the newer grader, which appears to be in good shape. The new grader has a rebuilt transmission; the factory-installed transmission on the previous grader has given Houghton and other communities trouble, Zenner said.

In other action, the council:

accepted a proposal from MacInnes about designs for wayfinding signs on Shelden Avenue. The designs will go out to bid; the signs are hoped to be in place by FinnFest.

heard a police report from Chief John Donnelly. In the past two weeks, the department has responded to 171 complaints, 50 of which have been accidents. The department also made eight misdemeanor arrests and two felony arrests and issued five civil infraction tickets.

discussed the Don Miller Memorial Locker Room at Dee Stadium, which will be dedicated on Tuesday prior to the Houghton-Calumet game.

heard from City Manager Scott MacInnes there will a Michigan Technological University intrasquad hockey game at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Dee Stadium, the first time they have played at the Dee since at least the 1980s. Response to the renovated Dee ballroom has also been positive.

supported the website to make four 60-second videos about the community for free; the company would get money through advertising. The company has similar videos on the Houghton County website.

approved $68,272 in funds from the Federal Transit Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation and the Michigan Department of Transportation.

approved drawing down $5,316 in Rural Development funds for water and sewer improvements.