Labor dispute slows road projects in Ottawa County

Ottawa County

GEORGETOWN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — For people who live off Cottonwood Drive in Georgetown Township, the current road project has become a source of frustration.

“It’s a pain in the neck,” resident George Van Antwerp said Monday. “It’s about a 3-mile detour every time we leave home.”

Road crews are widening the well-traveled road between Baldwin Street and Bauer Road. The project is funded by a millage and overseen by the Ottawa County Road Commission.

But recently, the construction zone has gone unusually quiet.

“It looked like they were just going to town, they were putting in sidewalks and so on. And then all of the sudden — boom — it stopped,” said resident Stan Jesky.

While there are still some workers on site, union workers who operate the heavy machinery are now off the job.

That’s because of an ongoing labor dispute between MITA — the organization that represents the owners of Michigan road construction companies —  and the union that represents heavy equipment operators.

The clash between both sides has slowed down or stopped altogether some road projects across the state, including at least three in Ottawa County. 

“We’re not a party to these negotiations,” Alex Doty, the communications administrator for the Ottawa County Road Commission, explained Monday. “We’re just patiently waiting on an agreement hoping they get back to work.”

“We’re upset that it’s something we don’t have any control over,” he continued. 

The project was supposed to be finished in late October. Now, those who live along Cottonwood Drive are left to wonder: how long will they be waiting for the work to get done?

“You gotta have a solution to everything,” Jesky said. “Do it in a way where you’re not impacting thousands of people that are totally innocent.”

“I hope it’s done before winter. That’s all I can hope for,” Van Antwerp said. 

Doty said if the labor dispute continues to drag out, the road commission will consider taking action — though he said they’re not sure yet what that might entail. 

“We’re gonna wait I think get through this week — and we’ll probably reevaluate,” he said. 

There are two other major road construction projects on hold in Ottawa County because of the labor dispute.

Those projects include the James Street resurfacing between US-31 and Chicago Drive in Holland Township and the Bass Drive/Warner Street/Osborn Street resurfacing between 104th Avenue and 68th Avenue in Robinson and Allendale townships.

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