Clearing area highways comes with hefty price tag

Last updated: January 10. 2014 8:16PM - 1126 Views
By - ckelly@civitasmedia.com

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LIMA — Many area roadways have been cleared of ice that had accumulated from the recent winter storm, and the cost for that cleanup is starting to accumulate.

“We have spent potentially around $125,000 that we spent for the last two snow storms,” Dan Hanjora, road maintenance superintendent at the Allen County Engineer’s Office, said. “The total tally for this storm was about $62,000.”

That total includes more than $1,500 of salt on county roads, a total of almost 500 tons.

“We’re really low on salt right now,” Hanjora said.

When it comes to state highways, the Ohio Department of Transporation used 1,935 tons of salt on the roadways since Jan. 1. ODOT District 1, a nine-county reagion including Allen County, used a total of 11,582 tons of salt during that nine-day period, one third of what the district typically uses in an entire year. This is especially significant given that no salt was used on roadways during the extreme cold early in the week.

“For a while, we only plowed to battle the blowing and drifting,” Rhonda Pees, public information officer for ODOT District 1, said. “When the temperature warmed, we could put material down on the roads again.”

With temperatures below zero, salt would have had no effect on the icy roads, and high winds also discouraged crews from using salt.

“We didn’t dump a bunch of salt,” Troy Recker, construction manager for the Putnam County Engineer’s Office, said. “When it’s drifting, it’s pretty useless laying it down.”

Recker noted that Putnam County is actually under budget for salt, due to last year’s mild winter. That, along with the lower cost of road salt, helped offset some of the county’s cleanup costs.

“We’re paying $48 per ton right now,” he said. “Back in 2008, we were paying $70 a ton. We typically use around 1,000 tons a year. This fiscal year so far, we’ve purchased 870 tons.”

That helped offset the additional cost for overtime in Putnam County, a major expenditure during this week’s storm cleanup.

“This week, we spent an additional $3,000 in overtime,” Recker said. “The county never pays more than time and a half for overtime. But it does add up.”

Allen County, however, spent $30,000 in overtime this past week.

“It adds up pretty quick with 30 guys doing 12-hour days,” Hanjora said. “For the first three days of the event, we were working 12-hour shifts, with people here around the clock.”

With equipment running that constantly, there is additional wear and tear on equipment, according to Pees.

“Many of us who have been here for years can’t remember temperatures that extreme, and that presented challenges with our equipment,” she said. “When you’re running around the clock like that, you always have the chance of things breaking down. But with the cold, there were additional issues with the air braking systems.”

For District 1, including labor, materials and equipment repair, ODOT faced a total cost of almost $1.5 million, over $220,000 of which was spent in Allen County.

And with that much ice comes that much damage. Total cleanup costs are expected to continue to rise as crews begin repairing potholes.

“We’ve noticed a lot of potholes out there,” Hanjora said. “That will be another day when we’re out there filling those in. Right now they’re up all over the place.”

Calls to the City of Lima and the Village of Ottawa were not returned.

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