The Southfield Oakland County Road Commission garage was a hive of activity Thursday afternoon.
Mechanics with torches and wrenches went about the business of trying to get every available snow plow on the road. Craig Bryson, of the Road Commission, says last year's light winter helped but a tough economy has prevented the county from buying trucks over the past six years.
"Many of our trucks are reaching the end of their useful life," said Bryson. "And our mechanics are working on them nonstop. They're breaking down much more frequently than they used to and it's challenging to keep them on the road. It's going to be a challenge even with an average winter."
They won't put out plows until the snow will accumulate. They have brine in tanks along with salt in the barn. It's ready to go if the ice arrives.
In fact, Metro Detroit's three main counties are ready:
Oakland County has 135 plows and 130 full-time drivers.
Wayne County has 120 plows and 99 full-time drivers.
Macomb County has 75 plows and 100 full-time drivers.
Oakland County is the only one in the state of Michigan to drill wells and pump its own liquid salt brine deicer.
There is plenty of road salt and brine to go around, too:
Oakland County has 30,000 tons of salt and 35,000 gallons of brine.
Wayne County has 47,000 tons of salt and 72,000 gallons of brine.
Macomb County has more than 82,000 tons of salt and 40,000 gallons of brine.
"Fortunately, the mild weather last year we saved about $1.5 million that allowed us to buy a little bit of new equipment and it allowed us to bring in additional part time staff to help out with our drivers. It was very beneficial."
That's the hope all around Michigan municipal yards. Things are tight, work is getting tougher and another mild winter could greatly help matters.