Salt stocks decline, potholes numbers climb

First Posted: 3/3/2014

LIMA — With the year’s final allotment of salt at the garage, Allen County Engineer Tim Piper told the county commissioners they can battle a couple more major snows.

The big blow to the engineer’s budget this winter is the cost associated with overtime hours because of weekend and holiday weather.

“Four weekends in a row we went out and that is most we have went out on weekends since the winter of 2008-09,” Piper said before Sunday’s storm. “We ordered our 120 percent so we are good for at least two more major snowstorms.”

Through Feb. 26, Engineer’s Office crews worked 3,702 hours, costing $166,590 on plowing snow and clearing roads. This is the second most in the last 11 years, eclipsed only by the winter of 2008-09 when crews worked 4,269 hours, costing the county an extra $172,895.

The report shows the county spent $377,071 during this winter on fuel, overtime, ice grit and salt. It is the fourth most in the last 11 years, with 2008-09 costing $464,174, which was closely followed by 2007-08 costing $462,177 and 2010-11 costing $454,967.

Snowstorms have hit on six weekends during the 2013-14 winter, including this past weekend, increasing the amount of salt, grit and overtime hours used by county snowplow crews.

With Sunday’s storm prompting crews to work 8.5 hours of overtime, Allen County Road Maintenance Supervisor Dan Hanjora estimated the county has eclipsed the $400,000 threshold.

“We probably have a little more than 300 tons of salt that we mix in with ice grit, or No. 9 stone that we get down at National Lime & Stone,” Hanjora said. “I don’t foresee us having a problem with salt. We still have enough for a couple of big snows.”

Lima City Public Works Deputy Director Saul Allen said the city still has 250 tons of road salt, which is less than they typically have at this time of year.

“As far as overtime, we are probably over what we normally do in overtime, but there is an understanding that we have to get the job done so that is taken into account,” Allen said. “If we have to we are still going to put people out and plow.”

The harsh and long winter weather is creating another problem for the city — potholes.

“We are already seeing a large number of potholes,” Allen said. “They [city leaders] will take into account what we have to do and we are going to do it. It is not a matter of ‘there is not enough money so we are not going to do potholes.’ We are going to take care of the potholes.”

He said the city will likely shift manpower and money from other activities crews typically performed to work on potholes. Two crews work on filling potholes when the weather is nice.

Unlike previous years where potholes popped up in a “here-and-there” fashion, Allen noticed potholes appearing in long stretches of the same road.

In Auglaize County, Assistant Engineer Kevin Schnell, who did not have access to the latest expense and materials report, said the county “is in good shape right now” because Chief Deputy Engineer Gary Kuck was able to locate a couple hundred more tons of salt.

“For this being early March, we have a pretty good pile of grit,” Schnell said. “For the most part, we should be OK with the supply of salt we have on hand unless we get a big storm between now and the end of the month.”

Helping the situation has been the number of hours of daylight and the fact the sun’s intensity is increasing as spring approaches.

He also explained they have been able to limit their salt usage because they pre-apply streets with beet juice and brine and they often use the mixture during the morning after snow melted the previous day and refroze on the roadway.

He said they have been fortunate with few potholes appearing on county roadways, which he credits to their patch and seal and their preventive maintenance programs.

While he is unaware of the expenses, he said when more is spent on plowing and salting of roadways it eventually chips away at the number of miles repaved in the summer. If it is a mild winter, the savings is often used to repave more county roads.

After surveying Allen County’s 375 miles of roadway, Hanjora estimated using 30 tons of cold mix so far and anticipates using a more permanent repair method in the spring and summer. In 2013, the county spent about $250,000 on the county’s road paving and repair program.

“In my opinion, I don’t think we have seen the end of the potholes yet,” said Hanjora, who mentioned the county purchased a DuraPatch machine this year to repair more potholes at a lower cost. “I think once this frost gets out of the ground we will see a whole lot more.”

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