Upper Arlington News

City seeks options before building new salt barn

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Upper Arlington officials will seek alternatives for housing the city's road salt supply, at least temporarily diverting from recommendations to build a new storage facility.

On Aug. 26, Upper Arlington City Council unanimously approved a mid-year operating budget, which included setting aside $260,000 to build a new salt barn.

Although the money was appropriated, the project to replace the city's only salt barn at 4100 Roberts Road -- which Upper Arlington Public Services Director Darryl Hughes said has been identified as structurally unsafe by building inspectors -- is on hold.

The delay is in response to Councilman David DeCapua's request to seek cost savings by sharing salt storage space with another community or agency.

"Shared services is a hot button within government right now," DeCapua said. "It resonates with taxpayers and the city is beginning to recognize there are more efficient ways to conduct business.

"A salt barn should be easy to share. Another municipality should be willing to help as a means to offset their own expenses," he said. "On occasion, I have needs for a pickup truck. I don't go out and purchase one. I borrow from someone."

Finance Director Cathe Armstrong told council Aug. 19 that estate and income tax collections are projected to be $2.8 million more than originally estimated. Funding for the new barn would come from that extra revenue.

During that same council conference session, however, council members directed Hughes to investigate the feasibility of sharing nearby salt barns owned by the Ohio Department of Transportation and the cities of Grandview and Hilliard.

On Aug. 22, Hughes told ThisWeek Upper Arlington News each of those options are inadequate, either because the barns are too far away from the Upper Arlington roads that would require snow removal or are too small to serve multiple jurisdictions.

Now, council has asked Upper Arlington City Manager Ted Staton to widen the search for salt storage.

City Community Affairs Director Emma Speight said that task has been returned to Hughes, who will now look for matches throughout Franklin County.

Hughes last week said he's continued to solicit information on the matter.

"One individual (DeCapua) asked me to take the time to make sure there aren't other options for shared services," he said. "The ones we've looked at, due to their locations and sizes, they can't take on what we're looking to do.

"We're looking at other areas."

Hughes had recommended building a new, 50-feet by 60-feet salt barn at the Roberts Road complex.

DeCapua said the city should examine partnerships with Ohio State University or private companies to share an existing storage facility or build a new one. He called the $260,000 price tag for the proposed new barn "excessive," but acknowledged he couldn't judge if cheaper barns on the market would meet the city's needs.

"Heck, I'd like to know what it costs UA to provide snow removal and could we outsource or share snow-removal services with another community," he said "Maybe UA could provide such services for surrounding communities and charge for it.

"To my knowledge, all options are on the table and (Staton) is working through them."

Hughes said the cost of salt barns depends on their size and design features, but he's open to exploring cost-saving options.

In the meantime, he said, the city's current salt barn, which is more than 30 years old and has a sagging roof, is off limits.

"We're just not allowing any pedestrians inside the building and won't use it this season," he said.

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