Crumbling pavement on Harper Avenue has local residents complaining.

Crumbling pavement on Harper Avenue has local residents complaining.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske

St. Clair Shores trying to keep up with potholes, water main breaks

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published January 23, 2018

 Potholes can be seen on Harper Avenue, north of 10 Mile Road.

Potholes can be seen on Harper Avenue, north of 10 Mile Road.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske

ST. CLAIR SHORES — Old Man Winter is keeping the Department of Public Works busy plowing, salting streets and, now, patching potholes. 

“Usually, once we’re into winter, if we stay cold enough, the cold patch stays in the holes,” said DPW Director Bryan Babcock. 

Unfortunately, this winter, that hasn’t been the case, he said. 

“We’ve had some warmups and everything’s let loose,” he said. “We’re also getting so much snow and we’re having to salt every day, sometimes twice a day, and those same people have to fill in the potholes.” 

For example, he said the morning of Jan. 17 that crews had been out salting the roads after a snowfall the night before. The minute they came back to the garage, he said, they were sent back out with cold patch to repair the roads. 

“It’s a vicious cycle,” he said. “When we get the freeze/thaw, if we get a warmup, we start seeing a lot of the ice and snow melting. That water works its way into the pavements, and then it goes and freezes in the evening and thaws in the morning.”

Residents can report potholes using the “Report a Concern” button on the city’s website,, or by calling DPW at (586) 445-5363. Babcock said the office keeps a running list of where the problem areas are. 

“I know the worst is yet to come,” he said. 

But this year is being made worse because of the amount of snow, leading to snow melt working its way into cracks in the road. 

The early freeze/thaw cycles are also wreaking havoc with the city’s water mains, Babcock said. 

“The pipes are old and (have) thin walls, so they’re not as strong to resist the (movement) of the ground,” he said. The department had to fix about 40 water main breaks in December and, as of Jan. 17, had already hit that same number for the month of January. 

The city is going through more salt this winter than it has in recent years. 

“The last couple of years, we’ve used around 2,000 tons of salt, and this year, we’ve already ordered 1,500 tons, and we’ll have probably about 10 weeks left of winter that we would expect to use salt,” Babcock said. 

He said the Police Department has been a big help during snow emergencies, trying to get parked vehicles off the roadways, but there have been entire streets skipped by the plows because they couldn’t get through.

“We’ve had a lot of streets that ... we just can’t physically get down the street because cars are on both sides,” he said. 

City Council members said Jan. 8 that sidewalks have also been an issue. 

Mayor Kip Walby said that a snow event does not have to be declared to require someone to shovel their sidewalks. 

“Sidewalks must be kept passable,” he said. 

When crews are out patching potholes or plowing the streets, slow down and give them room, Babcock said. He said workers have been nearly hit when motorists weren’t paying attention. 

“Slow down when you’re moving around those vehicles,” he said. “Please do not ever try to pass a plow truck.”