Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Several local road department supervisors say last year’s unusually high temperatures and this winter’s lower than normal snowfall has allowed them to save money on the purchase of snow and ice melt products.
In Camden County for instance road crews are still using the road salt that was purchased before the start of the 2011 - 2012 winter season.
Presiding Commissioner Kris Franken said because there have only been two snowfalls this season combined with the fact that employees use a mixture of salt and pea gravel has allowed the county to forego making any salt purchases this winter.
“Last winter was so warm that we hardly used any salt at all,” Franken said. “In fact we had so much leftover from last year that we haven’t had to purchase any salt this winter and unless we get quite a bit more snow in the next few weeks we won’t need anymore.”
Franken said another thing that has helped is that while the county is responsible for more than 900 miles of roadway, a large portion of those roads are gravel which means in most cases the use of salt is not necessary.
“We use the 16 road graders we have to plow the gravel roads,” Franken said. “And after the drivers are finished with the plowing they go back and redo all the intersections and so forth to make sure that they have taken the snow and ice all the way down to gravel.”
He said the only time the road department uses salt and/or pea gravel on the county’s gravel roads is when there is a bridge or other structure with an asphalt overlay. He went onto say that in addition to the road graders, the road departments also has 20 dump trucks that are used to both plow and spread a salt/pea gravel mixture on the county’s asphalt roads.
In Lake Ozark Public Works Director Matt Michalik said while he has purchased an additional load of road salt this winter it was done more out of a sense of precaution than because of a real need.
“We had a lot of salt leftover from last year,” Michalik said. “But we don’t have nearly as large storage capacity as some of the other departments around the Lake so I bought another 500 tons of salt just to be sure we had enough for the winter.”
Michalik said it normally takes about 300 tons of salt to melt the snow and ice off all the city streets, so he likes to keep enough on hand so there isn’t any “last minute scrambling” if there is an unexpected snowfall.
Miller County District 1 Commissioner Brian Duncan said his department has had enough salt “carried over from last year” that it hasn’t been necessary to purchase more.
Duncan said Miller County employees mix road salt and cinders together to treat their 600 miles of roads and, he said, that fact helps to save money on the purchase of road salt.
“We get cinders from Columbia, (Missouri) and we send our guys up there to haul it down and that saves us a lot more money over what it would to have it shipped,” Duncan said. “We probably have enough salt and cinders on hand to handle one more snow storm if we get one before we have to replenish our supply.”
Duncan, who said the county employs some 23 road workers, also said his department would “probably restock the salt supply before the season is over just to be sure there is enough on hand to start next season.”
Osage Beach Public Works Supervisor Rick King said except for extremely severe winters, like that of 2010 – 2011, his department always have enough salt and liquid snow melt on hand to handle the upcoming season.
“Unlike some other departments around here, I always inventory our salt and liquid snowmelt supplies at the start of spring and refill the bins at that time,” King said.
He said by ordering large quantities of road salt and liquid snowmelt in the spring he is able to save the city “lots of money” by making the largest purchase when the cost per ton is at its lowest. King said if the winter is especially severe he does occasionally have to replenish supplies during the peak season, but that hasn’t happened often.
“By buying salt and snowmelt in the spring I not only save the city a lot of money, but we’re always ready to go should we get an early snow or ice storm,” King said. King also said his employees clean and prepare the department’s trucks and other street clearing equipment before storing it for the summer to insure that all that has to be done when the first storm strikes is “just drive it out of the shed and get to work.”
King said the seven employees in his department who plow the city’s streets and spread the salt and liquid snowmelt mixture are responsible for some 80 “lane miles” of roadway.