Johnstown Independent

Winter taking its toll on village, township resources


As the snow began to fall, Johnstown service director Jack Liggett knew he and his team would be in for a long night that likely would extend well-into the next day.

The storm system that dumped more than 10 inches of snow on parts of central Ohio on Feb. 5 only further stressed the manpower and budgets of local governments. Many, like Johnstown, are awaiting the replenishment of their dwindling salt reserves.

"We are very fortunate because we didn't use all that much last year, so we entered winter with a full bin of salt," Liggett said. "I'm starting to get tight. We've got 75 tons on order, but we're hearing about communities that don't have any salt, and they're going to get it first."

Ohio Department of Transportation director Jerry Wray told media outlets last week that the agency was asking salt companies to bid on a new set of contracts after nearly reaching the limit on four contracts it had negotiated last summer with suppliers to provide rock salt for the state and for local governments.

The new contracts could provide an additional 150,000 tons of road salt to local governments, he said.

ODOT negotiated a price of nearly $36 a ton last summer, but the new contract likely will cost more because of higher demand and a national salt shortage. ODOT officials had expected to use about 600,000 tons of salt this winter. Trucks already have spread about 720,000 tons.

"It's really a guessing game on how much to buy because you have to do it in May," Liggett said. "I stocked up before the close of 2013, so I don't believe we're going to go over budget."

Johnstown typically budgets $40,000 for salt supplies annually. Last year, it spent $25,0000, Liggett said.

The village relies on a service department team of eight that is charged with clearing 26 miles of roads and streets, as well as maintaining the water and sewer plants, streetlights and traffic signals, parks and public trees.

Liggett said he has been juggling employees' shifts in an effort to remain on budget. The village operates two plows and utilizes pickup trucks to clear cul-de-sacs and parking lots.

"We've been running skeleton crews at the water and sewer plant, and if someone was plowing all night, we give them a day off," he said.

Monroe Township roads superintendent Bill Smith drives one of the township's two plows that take care of nearly 22 miles of rural roads and highways.

The township allocates $8,000-$10,000 annually for salt. Thus far, he said, it has used close to 160 tons -- more than double what the township uses in a typical winter.

"I've got another 40 tons coming, so we should be in good shape," Smith said. "When you get a winter like this, it does take its toll. It takes a lot more fuel to run the trucks, wear and tear on the vehicles and paying the guys to do it."