HISTORY OF THE BARRY COUNTY ROAD COMMISSION
(Complied by Betty Moore in 1986, Updated in 2013)
The Barry County Road Commission has a long and storied history dating back to 1916.
County Road Commissioners:
The following is an excerpt from the original minutes from the Barry County Board of Supervisors meeting.
“The County Road System was adopted in the County of Barry at an annual election held on April 3, 1916. The Board of Supervisors of said County had determined by resolution that the members of Commissioners should be three.”
-July 8, 1916
JP Kenyon, AF Fausey, & JW Crawley were Barry Counties original Road Commission members appointed in 1916. Since this resolution the Barry County Road Commission has had 37 different commissioners.
County Road Engineers:
George Burgess was hired as the first county engineer on July 25, 1916. His salary was $6.00 per day plus necessary expenses. Over the years the Road Commission has had only 13 engineers. Lawrence West, an engineer hired in 1939 was given a leave of absence during WWII in order for him to serve in the Military. Through the years we have had a couple of engineers leave to other counties, only to return to Barry County. Engineer Jack L. Kineman first served as Barry County engineer from 1971 – 1979 left Barry County to serve as road engineer in Sanilac County, only to return to Barry County from 1986 – 1997. One other engineer Roy Dehaven, also worked for Barry County on two separate occasions from 1950 – 1961 & 1967 – 1971.
County Clerks and their deputies acted as Secretary of the Board until November 1, 1941 at which the time the Road Commission hired Spencer C. Scobey as Secretary of the Road Commission. Mr. Scobey worked in other capacities for the Road Commission before hiring in as Secretary of the Board. Mr. Scobey served as Secretary until his retirement in January 1, 1973. From October 1973 until December of 1979 he served as Commissioner of Road Board. Betty M. Moore served as the Secretary from 1973 to 1987 when Gary Vandecar assumed the position, himself retiring in 2013.
Maintenance & Snow Removal:
The following excerpt from the original minute’s book dating back to 1916 described the procedure through which roads were adopted by the Road Commission:
“Resolved that is hereby determined that the Board of County Road Commissioners of Barry County take over and adopt as County Roads all that are being improved this year, and those being prepared for improvement next year (years 1917 and 1918) that same be advertised and the Clerk notify the Highway Commissioners of the several Townships in accordance with the provisions of Section 18 of Chapter IV Highway Laws of Michigan.”
In a five year period from 1930-1935 the Road Commission took over most of the roads previously maintained by the Townships.
In order to maintain the ever increasing road system the Road Commission depended on the manual labor of local residents. It was a common practice to take bids from County residents for both new construction and maintenance. When work was awarded to a certain bidder it was the bidders’ responsibility to employ his helpers and submit time sheets to the County Board. The helpers were usually local farmers and their team of horses. Snow removal during the winter was a major undertaking. Individuals were paid to shovel snow from miles of roadway. Over the years road equipment was acquired piece by piece and today the county owns a fleet of trucks and heavy equipment valued at over $7,000,000.
The Barry County Road System as we know it today has 344 miles of Primary Road and 721 miles of Local Road for a total of 1,065 miles of County Road; with 591 miles of paved road, 478 miles of gravel and 60 miles of all season road.
Originally the Barry County Road Commission was located in the City of Hastings on a lot located at State St. and Boltwood St. which was purchased from Lillian Perkins in 1927 for $200. In 1935 the garage was enlarged to accommodate more equipment and to house office personnel and records. In 1936 the Barry County Road Commission moved from the County Court House into what is now the Hastings City Garage. This was to the County Road Commission home until 1965.
In 1956 100 acres in Section 13 and 24 of Rutland Township was purchased for $1,000 from Chester Peck which is now the site of the Barry County Road Commission. In 1962 an office building at this location was constructed for a total of $33,858. The office was moved to its present location in August of 1962. The first radio system was also purchased in 1962.
In 1964 construction of a new garage was started at this location for a total $150,954.76. The complete operation was moved in 1965. The present facility, including the office, garage, salt storage barn, numerous outbuildings and cold storage, is valued at $9,000,000.
Insuring an operation as large as the Barry County Road Commission is a major expenditure for the County’s yearly budget. Insurance premiums are not new to the Road Commission. In 1918 the Road Commission was concerned about liability and took bids for liability insurance. A policy costing $2.37 per hundred dollars was acquired from John M. Gould. An auto insurance policy was acquired with Michigan Mutual through agent Charles Faul. Present insurance costs are approximately $200,000 annually.
Interesting Historical Facts:
In 1917 reckless drivers were a concern to the Road Commission. A resolution was made to instruct the County Sheriff to enforce the law and stop the reckless driving of automobiles and motorcycles.
Charlton Historical Park and Village was at one time under the jurisdiction of the Barry County Road Commission. In 1937 Park Committee members were Charles Leonard, Bert Brown, and Fred Stevens. In January 1938 a meeting was held with Walter Kingscott, Superintendent of State Parks, Charles Boulter, Landscape Architect, DeForrest Platt, and Irving Charlton to obtain recommendation for dark development. As the park developed Mr. Charlton would bring the weeks receipts into the Road Commission along with the expenditures to be paid. The Park Commission was formed under the jurisdiction of the County Commission Board.
This is only a brief history of the Barry County Road Commission. In the nearly 100 years since its formation the Road Commission has transformed the Barry County road system from a tiny network of dirt trails and by-ways to a sophisticated grid of paved and maintained gravel roads of today which the tax paying citizens of Barry County should be proud of.