Dublin Villager

Winter taking toll on city's budget, salt reserves

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

This winter has not been an easy one for Dublin's snow warriors.

So far the city has dealt with nearly three times as many snow events than in the same time last winter.

The cost of cleaning streets is running high and salt reserves are running low.

"We're on pace for using more salt this year than last year," said Bill Grubaugh, Dunlin's interim director of streets and utilities. "We've had close to 19 or 20 events this year."

As of Jan. 9, Dublin had spent more than $690,000 to keep streets cleared of snow and safe for drivers, a staff memo to council said.

By the same time last year, the city had spent about $393,500.

"The most costly snow events thus far this season were the events of Dec. 6-8, 2013 and Jan. 2-3, 2014," the staff report to council stated.

"The Jan. 2-3 snow event was particularly challenging due to blowing snow."

The cost of cleaning up snow includes labor, equipment and materials, which are primarily salt.

To clean roads, the city responds with "22 dump trucks equipped with plows, salt dispensers and calcium dispensers," the staff report said.

"Staff is divided into two, 12-hour shifts for 24-hour snow removal services.

"There are usually at least 22 operators, three mechanics and three crew supervisors working each shift."

This winter has been relatively free of large amounts of snow, but the frequency has been high.

"In the biggest storms, we push the snow off the road and then salt when it's all over," Grubaugh said.

"We're less likely to use those quantities (of salt)," Grubaugh said.

"We're getting a lot more of what we call nuisance storms."

The nuisance storms, Grubaugh said, don't drop as much snow as big storms, but require many passes to clear roads and lots of salt.

Another major hurdle this winter has been temperatures.

"This has been an unusually cold and more sustained cold over more time winter," Grubaugh said.

Dublin's Streets and Utilities Department treats the roads depending on road temperatures, not air temperatures.

The road temperature is typically a few degrees higher than the air temperature because of wind chill and sun, but temperatures have still been low.

"Salt does not work well in extreme cold," Grubaugh said.

"Salt's effectiveness diminishes at 10 below zero."

Chemically treated salt can melt ice regular salt can't at low temperatures, though.

"We adjust the chemicals based on roads," Grubaugh said.

With the cold and snowy winter so far on the books, Grubaugh said the city has nearly worked its way through the 6,000 tons of regular salt and 2,000 tons of chemically treated salt that was budgeted for.

"This year we have used almost the entire allotment budgeted this year," Grubaugh said.

"We had some salt stored from last year on site and that gives us a little more flexibility.

"This has been a challenging year. I'm hoping winter ends soon."

If snow keeps falling, however, Dublin will not go without salt.

"We have the ability to get salt quickly," Grubaugh said, adding that a call to a provider can get more for the city's salt barn.

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