MARINETTE —  Marinette County Highway Commissioner Eric Burmeister unveiled a plan on Wednesday to the county board’s Infrastructure Committee that he hopes will help control the county’s winter operations costs.

“The last five winters have cost the county right around $1.2 to $1.3 million,” he said. “That’s just for winter maintenance; currently through the budget process we can see $1 million for winter maintenance.”

Burmeister said “during the last three years we’ve been continually going into a fund balance to make up for that difference. So I thought one of the things we’d try this year is to come up with a winter operations policy.”

He said his department’s goal is to do all winter maintenance between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m., but that that’s most likely not going to happen.

Burmeister outlined the winter operations policy in a letter to public safety agencies, school superintendents and busing companies.

“In order to to minimize overtime costs, the Marinette County Highway Department performs snowplowing operations during normal work hours (7 a.m. to 3 p.m.),” he said. “However, there are times when limiting plowing between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday is not reasonable without compromising public safety.” 

He said when inclement weather dictates the necessity to work outside normal normal business hours, the Highway Department will use the following guidelines:

¦ As a general rule, the Highway Department will make every attempt to keep the county and state highways passable during the time when a majority of the public will be at or traveling to or from work or school from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. If through the night there is ice accumulation, substantial snowfall or if wind causes substantial drifting of snow, plowing operations will begin usually around 4 a.m. so at least one round of plowing can be completed by 7. At the end of the normal Highway Department workday, if snowfall is minimal or has quit completely and drifting is minimal, snowplowing operations will cease until the beginning of the following day after trucks have completed their final road passes.

¦ If, however, there is significant snowfall or drifting, the Highway Department will continue plowing operations until approximately 8 p.m. After 8, the Highway Department will begin an operational recovery period so the plow operators are well rested to begin plowing again the next morning.

“The operational recovery period is for the safety of all,” Burmeister stressed. “We suggest that traveling during the inclement weather be kept to an absolute minimum, especially after dark.”

¦ On Saturday, Sunday and holidays. snowplowing operations will take place between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. The Highway Department will continue to issue an incident action plan when there is significant inclement weather forecast. On weekends, the Highway Department is just going to focus on driving surfaces.

Burmeister said the Highway Department is going to have a route where brine (261/2 percent saltwater) will be used in an effort to cut snowplowing costs.

“We’re going to try County Trunks B and BB as a brine route,” he explained. “It’s close enough to the Peshtigo shop that in the event we get freezing rain and wind and we’re not able to keep up the anti-icing, it’s close enough to the shop for us to get sand and salt out. I want to try the brine and see if there’s actually going to be savings in the budget.”