Road work stoppage, labor dispute felt in parts of Ottawa County

Posted at 4:27 PM, Sep 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-07 16:28:33-04

GEORGETOWN Township, Mich. -- Road projects remain stalled across the state as two groups fail to agree on a new collective bargaining agreement. The labor dispute has residents and businesses in Ottawa County living with the consequences.

Cottonwood Drive in Georgetown Township went from busy traffic to disruptive construction earlier this year, and neighbors tell FOX 17 they're ready for work to be done. The area now sits silent, and the work stoppage is only prolonging the project.

"It's been a long dusty summer," Jim Westra said.

For the most part, the dust has settled on Cottonwood Drive since road construction has come to a halt.

In fact, Westra's the only person doing work outside the Georgetown Township home he's lived in for 44 years. The Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association (MITA) and Operating Engineers Local 324 dispute led to a lockout Tuesday are in charge of widening Cottonwood and updating the utilities These are the two groups having trouble coming to a new collective bargaining agreement.

Westra said, "I respect them for what they're trying to do and what they're trying to get, but I really like they it if they'd get it done."

Alex Doty, with the Ottawa County Road Commission said, "We've had people call and ask, 'How long is this gonna take? What's the deal with the stoppage?' Some have wondered if it's a road commission strike. That's not the case."

He said the dispute, which is simply between MITA and the union, shut down three projects countywide this week with no warning.

The other two include resurfacing projects in Holland Township on James Street between U.S. 31 and Chicago Drive, and in Allendale into Robinson Township on Osborn, Bass and Warner from 68th Avenue to 104th Avenue.

The Cottonwood project was originally slated to finish in October.

Doty said, "We're not going speculate how this stoppage might impact that because we don't know how long it's going to last. Our main concern is just seeing that these two sides come to an agreement so that work can resume on this and the other two projects as quickly as possible."

For a project that started in February, Westra and businesses along Cottonwood welcome the inconvenience of construction rather than indefinite disruption.

Westra said, "Right now I want to hear the noise because that means they're working."

The road commission said the few workers that are on-site are not affected by the dispute and that makes the Cottonwood project a partial shutdown. FOX 17 spoke with the union and MITA by phone. They said they're at a stalemate and there've been no talks. The union said workers may be filing for unemployment soon and are looking for other projects.