Sohlden manages MCRC as it maintains safe, efficient roads

MANISTEE COUNTY — The Manistee County Road Commission is charged with providing and maintaining a safe and efficient system of county roads for citizens.

In observance of National County Government Month, the Manistee News Advocate caught up with manager Mark Sohlden to discuss his position at the MCRC as it transitions from winter-focused operations to seasonal maintenance and upcoming road repair projects.

“I’m involved with pretty much everything concerning the the day-to-day operation,” said Sohlden, who manages 30 staff members, road and bridge maintenance, construction and design involved with the daily goings-on at the road commission.

On Wednesday, Sohlden was out doing field work, preparing for the upcoming warmer Michigan weather.

“I think we’re pretty much done with winter,” Sohlden said of the season that saw 110 inches of snowfall, compared to 123 last year. “I think overall it was a pretty mild winter, but a lot of times now we compare it to the bad winter of 2013-14, where we had a record snowfall.

“This one was still pretty mild, so therefore you’re basically spending less money on snowplowing, sanding and salting,” he added. “So, we’re hoping we’ll have some more funds to use on capital improvement projects.”

Sohlden said, for him, this time of year is typically spent compiling estimates for potential cost-share projects with townships in the county.

“We do have a handful that want to do projects this year,” he said. “We generally get requests right now from the townships — what they would like to see done, being that they participate in the cost. And it looks like a lot of it this year may be blacktop wedging and chip seal work. We’ll have some that will be blacktop paving work, too.”

Sohlden said one of the larger projects the commission will be involved with this summer and into fall — through the Michigan Department of Transportation — will be a major resurfacing operation on Seaman Road in Norman Township, a 1.2 mile stretch between 12 Mile and Hoxeyville roads.

Aside from daily management and field work, Sohlden works closely with 14 townships in the county on service requests and township contracts as well as other local units of government, including the Manistee County Board of Commissioners, City of Manistee, and villages of Bear Lake, Copemish, Eastlake, Kaleva and Onekama.

He is responsible for the preparation of the commission’s annual budget, for Fiscal Year 2016 is just shy of $9,000,000.

Funding for Michigan roads has been a hot topic in recent years, and it finally took a step forward late last year.

“The legislature approved additional funding this past November, so that’s definitely going to help,” Sohlden said. “Hopefully we can start focusing on a lot of the roads that are falling apart.

“On the federal aid paved roads, probably 45 percent is in good to excellent condition and about 55 percent is fair to poor conditions, so we definitely have a lot of needs,” he added. “We’re glad we finally will have some additional funding starting next year and hopefully we can do more capital improvement projects, whether it be wedging and chip sealing or road resurfacing to try to save what we have.”

Sohlden, who spent 29 years in the consulting and engineering field, has been a road commission manager for more than nine years. He’s approaching his third year in Manistee.

On Friday, the News Advocate will highlight the road commission as a whole and its function in Manistee County

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Posted by Dylan Savela

Dylan is the county reporter for the News Advocate, he also is in charge of the Small Town Life, religion and senior pages. He can be reached at (231) 398-3111 or dsavela@pioneergroup.com.

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