Getting ready for winter

With October already ushering in the first few snowflakes of winter, area agencies are putting the final touches on their winter road preparations-ordering salt, inspecting equipment and training employees.

This year’s winter weather could be somewhat more severe than the past couple of winters, predicted Todd Stockel, streets superintendent for the City of Marietta.

“I don’t think it’s going to be mild. We’re kind of due for a good one,” he said of the upcoming winter.

The city stocked to its full 600-ton capacity of salt last year and used half of it. Now they have already restocked the 300 tons and are waiting to see what happens.

Even in a bad winter, the full 600 tons is usually sufficient, said Stockel. If not, extra salt purchases would come for the city streets fund. However, the price of salt has luckily decreased this year, added Stockel.

He estimated the city spent $62 per ton on salt this year, compared to anywhere between $72 to $90 per ton in recent years.

The Ohio Department of Transportation has also benefited from lower salt prices this year.

Salt purchasing contracts, which are bid on both the county and ODOT district levels, decreased by an average $3.03 statewide this year, dropping to $37.88 per ton.

Locally, the impact was much more modest. District 10, which covers Athens, Gallia, Hocking, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Noble, Vinton, and Washington counties, only saved 21 cents per ton of salt-the price decreasing from $56.87 to $56.66 per ton.

The Washington County Engineer’s office generally uses between 1,500 to 1,800 tons of salt every winter, said county highway superintendent Calvin Becker. The county currently has around 750 tons of salt stocked and has access to another 2,000 pounds through their salt contract.

“Depending on how hard I hit it, I’ll replenish between 200 and 400 tons at a time, three to five times throughout the season,” said Stockel.

The county also mixes the salt with sand, which is relatively cheap by comparison, said Becker.

Soon, the county will also be performing inspections and maintenance on the 15 trucks that will be equipped with snow plows, as well as two extra trucks, and the plows, salt spreaders and other winter equipment.

“Hopefully that will happen on a day with bad weather where we can’t get to some other stuff,” he said.

The county will also be training a new employee on snow removal, as one of the veterans retired this year, added Becker.

This year, as every year, ODOT will be the area entity with the heftiest salt stockpile. The agency is stocking 4,300 tons of salt and budgeting $1.2 million for the 92 thousand miles of snow and ice removal it plans to perform in Washington County throughout the winter, said ODOT District 10 communications manager David Rose.

“This is our core service-clearing the roads. So it’s something we take extremely seriously,” he said.

Friday, ODOT mechanics completed 150-point inspections on every piece of equipment, including 24 snow plows, that the department will use in Washington County throughout the winter, he said.

“Our perspective is, no matter what Mother Nature throws at us, we’re going to be ready. We’ll make sure we have our people, equipment, all of our materials stocked and ready,” said Rose.