DOH crews winning battle against Old Man Winter
Governor Manchin declared a state of emergency after the big storm a couple of weeks ago, but you wouldn't have known it in Pocahontas County.
In other areas of the state, many roads were closed, including a long stretch of Interstate 64. But 671 miles of roads in Pocahontas County stayed open, thanks to veteran road maintenance crews and mechanics. The feat is remarkable considering the county got more snow than other areas in the state, with more than two feet in much of the county.
The Department of Highways (DOH) workforce in Pocahontas County consists of 42 personnel, including office staff, distributed among three garages at Marlinton, Hillsboro and Green Bank. The equipment they use includes four dual-axle trucks; 12 single-axle trucks; three tow trucks; and four graders.
Roads are plowed and treated with a four-to-one mix of salt, calcium and aggregate. The ingredients are expensive. Salt is $88 a ton; aggregate is $12 a ton and liquid calcium is 85 cents a gallon. It adds up fast when you have to cover 237 miles of paved roads and 434 miles of secondary roads.
The county DOH started with a budget of $764,928 for winter road maintenance, which covers overtime, equipment maintenance and materials. The two-day storm alone ate up nearly $50,000. But overall, the situation looks good. The DOH has $361,432 remaining for the rest of the winter and there is no shortage of road mix ingredients.
DOH superintendent Jim McCoy said his crews deserve a lot of credit.
"I think we did very well," he said. "On Saturday evening, we probably didn't have but a couple little secondary roads that we hadn't been to. I think the fellows did good. You look around at surrounding counties and you can see that. We have an awful good group of people here."
McCoy said feedback from the public has been mostly positive.
"The general feedback from the public is pretty compassionate," he said. "Sometimes, it's never enough. You'll get one or two irate about something but generally it's pretty positive.
"We have some people who will take the time to write a letter or thank-you note or something like that and the crews appreciate that. They'll leave cookies and candy for the crews around Christmas and they appreciate that, too."