Marysville Division of Streets Sanitation and Stormwater superintendent Joe Tracey sums up the mild winter weather and its effect on the city budget in one word: "wonderful."

Marysville Division of Streets Sanitation and Stormwater superintendent Joe Tracey sums up the mild winter weather and its effect on the city budget in one word: "wonderful."

So far, the total snowfall this winter has left the city's budget virtually untouched. Tracey said mild winters make life easy for his department.

"This is it right here," he said. "This is as good as it gets."

"We've got an estimated 1,400 tons of salt in stock," he said. "Normally, it takes 1,800 to 2,000 tons to get through. That's the number I use for budgetary purposes when I'm figuring the upcoming contract to order the salt through our state contract."

With only a handful of snow days in Marysville this winter, city plows have been sitting on the sidelines.

"From Dec 1, 2010 to Jan 17, 2011 ... snow removal, salt, and labor totaled $101,176.28," he said. "This year in the same time frame, we're at $14,258.48. And that's the kind of thing that everybody's experiencing. (The Ohio Department of Transporation is) the same way. They're loving it. They're saving money."

Tracey started with the Marysville City Street Department as a laborer 31 years ago and said he has not seen many winters like this one.

"I can remember back to the early '80s. We had two winters back to back when we never dropped a plow," he said. "We salted a few times and that was it. So far, it's been the same way. We haven't plowed yet and we're over halfway through."

The city salt barn has a 6,000-ton storage capacity. Tracey said he usually tries to keep enough salt in storage to keep the city from getting in a bind.

"We usually try to keep enough in knowing if we get two or three bad storms in a row, all these other government agencies are backed up on salt and the trucking lines are going to be backed up two or three weeks. (But) we can get through," he said. "So I may order three times over the winter and I'll order anywhere from 500 to 600 tons at a time."

Tracey said 15 drivers in three maintenance areas primarily take care of the department's needs.

"When we get into extended snow removal where we have to start working around the clock, we'll use everybody from all the maintenance divisions," he said. "Water guys help out and wastewater has some guys that help out. Obviously, if you're getting a foot of snow, they're not laying water lines. So everybody pitches in and it works great."

Tracey said nobody works more than 16 hours during a serious winter storm.

"When it gets to where you're working 24/7 running 24 hours a day, 16 hours is the most we have anyone go," he said. "That's kind of the standard set by ODOT ... and just more or less just a safety standard."

He has enough people to comfortably keep eight or nine drivers on duty around the clock, he said.

Tracey said 14 of the city's 24 trucks make up the primary fleet. Ten of those have salt applicators and some have wetting systems that spray salt brine. The city street department services about 240 lane miles, which includes the neighborhoods and the freeway.

"There are 35 lane miles just on the freeway. That's including the ramps and everything," Tracey said.

He said he does not like to wait too late to start plowing once the snow starts coming down.

"Unlike a lot of cities that have policies that they don't plow until two or three inches, we plow as soon as we can roll something off the end of the blade," he said. "To me, that's common sense. If the snow is not on the roadway, then that's less salt you're going to have to use to get rid of the snow."

This winter may be mild so far, but Tracey has seen much worse over the years.

"In 1996, in the first week and a half, we had three Level 3 snowstorms," he said. "We went through my entire salt and overtime budget in 11 days. During those three storms, we hauled 350 loads of snow out of the four uptown blocks. That was a tough year."

When the snow falls, the city follows a priority list. Hospital and school routes are taken care of first, then secondary streets going into the neighborhoods and then the side streets and neighborhood streets.

And once they start spreading salt, the more traffic the better.

"You try to depend on the traffic to help you out," he said. "If you apply your salt and the traffic's there to work it in, you're going to get a much better result. If you apply it at 3 a.m. and there's nothing happening, the salt will lay there. If we know we're going to get hit right before the rush hour, we can salt and it will keep everything worked up.

"Once the temperature gets below 20 degrees, you start dramatically losing the effectiveness of the salt, so we mix in calcium."

Tracey said beet juice mix is nice but runs about $3 to $4 a gallon. Marysville does not use it any more but he said it can be good for high-speed areas because it lowers the freeze point and acts as a sticky substance to help keep salt on the roadway.