Make a call to alert city to potholes

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published March 13, 2015


ST. CLAIR SHORES — The joke is that there are two seasons in Michigan — winter and construction. But there should probably be a third added to the mix: pothole season.

And the fact that temperatures have begun to leap above the freezing mark during the day means that season is upon us, with more potholes likely to be opening in the roadways soon, according to St. Clair Shores Department of Public Works Director Bryan Babcock.

New this year in St. Clair Shores, one crew is able to make use of a “hot patch trailer” purchased in November for about $15,000 that allows the crew to keep the patch heated at a constant temperature so that it can be poured into the hole, as opposed to the normal task of trying to pack it in.

“Before, what we had to do was leave it mounded so that traffic would help pound it in,” Babcock said. “We’re using less material (and it) prevents some of the cold patch from getting spread around into all the curbs.”

Babcock said the trailer also makes work easier on the DPW crew.

“Before, they had to take shovels at shoulder height into a dump truck and scoop the material out. Now it’s down around knee height,” he said. “It’s helping them get more done.”

“It’s all heated; it’s so much better for us,” said DPW laborer Kevin Mosher, working to fill a pothole created by a water main break on Masonic Boulevard outside the St. Clair Shores Golf Course on March 9.

“With it being heated up, it’s just a lot more workable; (it) saves our elbows and shoulders,” agreed DPW laborer Gary Hendricks.

Babcock said many other public works departments use the trailers for the same reasons.

“It’s a waste when you put down cold patch and it ends up in the curb and catch basins, and we’re trying to reduce the waste,” he said.

He encouraged residents to call the Department of Public Works at (586) 445-5363 when they see a pothole in St. Clair Shores in need of repair. Residents can also use the “report a concern” button on the city’s website, Babcock said employees make note of potholes as they are driving around the city, but it definitely helps when residents keep an eye out, too.

“We keep a list here in the office, and anytime we can get caught up on the main streets, then we go into our side streets and do potholes,” he said.

Macomb County is responsible for Harper Avenue, as well as 12 Mile and 10 Mile roads from the western city limits to Harper Avenue.

“All over the county we have potholes,” said Bob Hoepfner, director of the Macomb County Department of Roads. “We’ve had crews out for weeks patching potholes. In a week or two, we’ll really be in the full pothole season.”

Outside the city, the county is encouraging motorists to call 911 to alert the Macomb County Department of Roads to “dangerous” potholes.

“Some, you bump them and we’re annoyed by it, (but) ... if you see someone beside the road with a damaged tire, that should be phoned in,” Hoepfner said.

DPW is also working to contain water main breaks that are popping up as the ground thaws. During the first week of March, the department averaged about seven water main breaks a day.

“It’s pretty normal for this time of year,” Babcock said.

But the city didn’t experience as many water main breaks this winter as last. From December 2013-February 2014, there were 128 breaks, compared with 87 during the same time period this year.

Workers want motorists to be aware of them on the roadways, however.

“Please respect the guys working in the road and slow down,” Mosher said. “Slow down for 100 feet.”

“Slow down; give them space,” Hoepfner said of road-patching crews. “They’re going to be out there all the time. It’s going to cause tremendous delays. I know it’s inconvenient, but they need to be out there to patch the potholes.”