Herald Journal, Feb. 14, 2005
Bob Bakeberg keeps things in order for Victor Township
By Jenni Sebora
Bob Bakeberg of Victor Township has his eyes and ears on the weather forecast at all times.
Because he is the road maintenance lead for Victor Township, which requires him to go out at any time of day or night to plow snow or grade the roads, which are the biggest jobs in his work.
In fact, with the most recent snowfall, Bakeberg was out in force with the snow plow a couple times during the weekend, putting in 24 hours of work during the weekend.
“I enjoy the variety of work in my job,” Bakeberg said.
And variety is what he has. Since 1997, Bakeberg has been plowing snow and removing ice, grading and sanding roads, mowing ditches, hauling gravel, cutting brush, replacing culverts, repairing and replacing signs, removing junk and debris from the road ditches, removing deceased animals, maintaining and repairing equipment for Victor Township.
Rebuilding, reshaping, and reestablishing road ditches is another big job for Bakeberg.
“The road ditches get filled in over time because of weather conditions, and the ditches need to be reshaped and reestablished,” Bakeberg said.
Since Victor Township is laden with lakes, the roads around the lakes also require more attention from Bakeberg.
Because of the density of residency and the amount of traffic, especially on Lake Ann, Lake Mary, and parts of Howard Lake, the roads around those areas require more attention and work, Bakeberg said.
There are some services and tasks that are contracted with another company, such as dust control.
Once a year, notices are sent to residents regarding the issue of dust control on the roads they live on, and the residents decide if they want the service. If a resident chooses to have the service, the contracted company completes the dust control, and the resident pays for it, Bakeberg explained.
“It (dust control service) is an option for people. If they want the service, they pay for it,” Bakeberg said.
There are also some tasks that Bakeberg performs that have become more problematic. One of those tasks is the removal of debris and junk, including appliances and tires from the road ditches.
The township has to pay for the removal and disposal of the appliances that are thrown in the ditches, Bakeberg explained.
“The problem is getting worse, and it’s an added expense to the township,” Bakeberg said.
And there are some jobs that have really evolved over time. Bakeberg recalls the days when men would go ahead of the dozer or caterpillar and chop snow and ice by hand so the dozer could then push through.
This job is no longer done this way as the equipment and the quality of equipment has evolved also and is so much better, Bakeberg said.
Victor Township has owned its own equipment for numerous years, including a grader, pay loader, and a dump truck.
“The township board really keeps up on the equipment, so we have really decent equipment,” Bakeberg said.
To assist Bakeberg with some of the duties, such as snow plowing, there is a part-time maintenance person also that helps as needed.
One incident that sticks out in Bakeberg’s mind in his years of township work was a few years ago, when the area received 20 inches of rain in a week. He received a phone call at 4 a.m. from a township resident living on an area lake, requesting assistance with sandbagging because of flooding.
“The resident made the necessary phone calls to set up the sandbagging, so I drove out to his residence to bring him sand to get the sandbagging started. There was so much rain water on the roads, you couldn’t tell if the gravel road was underneath you, and you couldn’t see where you were going,” Bakeberg said.
“At least when you are plowing snow, you know the road is underneath you. It was a scary situation,” Bakeberg added, “but the gentleman was able to save his home with 5,000 sand bags placed around his home.”
One issue that all townships are dealing with and will continue to deal with, including Victor Township, is gravel shortage.
In fact, Bakeberg predicts because of the shortage of aggregate, it will double in price in three years.
“We are getting gravel from a pile north of Howard Lake, and when that pile is depleted, I don’t know where we will go,” Bakeberg said.
To attest to this widespread problem, Bakeberg also added that there are six townships that are getting their gravel from this same pit, and there used to be just three townships using gravel from that pit.
To help alleviate the gravel shortage problem, Victor Township is open to trying some different products for the roads, such as red rock and limestone, Bakeberg said.
“We tried an oil-based product transported from Idaho, but it didn’t stick. The company is sticking by it, and it will be reapplied again in the future,” Bakeberg said.
Bakeberg believes that due to faster-paced lifestyles and speed of traffic, the road conditions are deteriorating faster.
“We are trying to conserve the gravel roads we have,” Bakeberg said.