The Canal Winchester Times

Winter taking toll on communities' budgets

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This winter has taken a severe toll on Canal Winchester and area communities, including equipment, project schedules and budgets.

Canal Winchester Public Works Director Matt Peoples said the shortage of road salt is getting sorted out but his department is already looking at its budget in preparation for next winter.

"As you've all heard, the whole region is in a salt shortage, so ... we have to rely on the sun more than we have in the past," Peoples said. "We hadn't heard anything about the salt for two weeks from ODOT, and then after being told we weren't getting any new salt, we had a delivery show up out of the blue."

Street Department Manager Shawn Starcher said the weather has made it difficult to keep Canal Winchester sidewalks clear along with the streets, and that sidewalk salt reserves also are low.

Currently, the city has used about 600 tons of road salt, compared to last year, when the city used a total of 460 tons.

According to Peoples, the city is working on a contingency plan for salt reserves in the coming year, which may include buying extra salt at this year's rates, in anticipation of higher prices next year.

"Dealing with the shortages of salt is a frustration for us and the residents, but I think everyone knows what we've done to get by, being as responsive as we can," Starcher said.

"This winter has been very hard on our equipment as well, and we're down to just one truck for spreading brine."

Madison Township Fire Chief Robert Bates said the extreme cold resulted in one of the department's engine trucks failing, with a frozen water pump taking it out of commission for a day while repairs were made.

Bates reported that the department had 545 incident runs in January alone, the largest monthly total in the department's history.

"I've never seen a month with more than 500 before, let alone 545," Bates said. "Groveport was actually the busiest area, followed by Madison Township and then Canal Winchester; surprisingly, we had zero calls from Obetz, though."

According to Bates, the calls were a combination of weather-related incidents on top of the regular workload, which, he said, has been on a steady incline over the past few years as the area continues to grow.

Madison Township Road Supervisor Dave Weaver said his department went through 104 tons of salt in January, running rotating 12-hour shifts for each of the four road crew members.

"This resulted in 181 hours of overtime, but I want to let everyone know that my crew of four has been working these ungodly hours and never complained," Weaver said. "They've given their all and I want to say how much I appreciate them.

"We got a call from the county and we are able to go back to getting salt at Hendron Road," he added. "We've been having to drive all the way to Dublin Road for it, which took an hour and a half just to pick it up."

Weaver said he was told the cost of the salt is being raised from $53 a ton up to $75 a ton. The higher salt prices and the overtime are hurting on the department budget.

"With the warmer weather, we've been out every day filling potholes with two of my guys and clearing the storm sewer drops with the other two to prevent flooding," Weaver said. "We have 800 drops, so I want to thank the residents I've seen helping to clear those of snow in their neighborhoods."

Madison Township Administrator Susan Brobst added that Aqua Water was forced to halt construction of planned water system upgrades because of the extreme cold, but crews are moving forward once again with the project now.

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