Westerville News & Public Opinion

Salt barn helped avert winter shortage


Despite a winter that left many communities scrambling to find salt, plow roads and fit the work into a tight budget, the city of Westerville managed to make it through the season largely without issue, thanks in part to the city's new salt barn.

"That just saved our bacon," Public Service Director Frank Wiseman said of the nearly $500,000 facility built in 2012.

The barn can store 7,800 tons of salt and gave the city an edge on communities that needed repeated shipments throughout the winter.

"We had salt all the way through and were able to get deliveries just in time," Wiseman said. "So we never really got to a stressful point. ... It definitely paid its weight in gold."

Westerville used almost 6,900 tons of salt between November and earlier this week. Wiseman said 5,500 tons is usually the baseline estimate for the city's salt use, but the last two winters -- neither of which reached 4,000 tons -- highlight what a rough winter this truly was.

"The last two years before this were so easy," Wiseman said, "that it makes that 6,900 figure look really out there."

Salt wasn't the only upswing in cost the city had to deal with this year. Workers spent 3,155 hours, including more than 400 hours of overtime, working on the streets -- a figure that easily outweighs the last two winters combined.

"I think the biggest challenge with a winter like this was the constant storms coming in," Wiseman said. "These guys (service crews) don't get a break. They're all working many hours, and it becomes very telling on them that they can keep it up day after day after day without a break. That's a hard thing."

The harsh winter weather also took a toll on city roads, though Wiseman credited the city's "good, aggressive street repair plan" for preventing the streets from being harder to deal with than usual.

"We have had more potholes this year than the last couple of years," he said. "I don't know that we're going to do any major overhauls other than what was already planned ... but the freezing and thawing that we had definitely made the potholes appear a little quicker."

As to whether Westerville was in a better position to deal with the harsh winter than other communities, Wiseman said it simply adapted.

"I wouldn't say we were more prepared than others," he said. "But we were able to handle the situations well."