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With mild winter so far, Hagerstown and county salt bins are full

January 12, 2012|By DAN DEARTH | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com
  • A rusty shovel is ready to use on a pile of road salt stored at the City of Hagerstown's facility off Memorial Boulevard.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

The mild weather the area has experienced so far this winter has resulted in an accumulation of a different sort in Washington County.

Hagerstown and county officials say their salt bins are full following only one light snowfall this calendar year.

“I would say we’re definitely ahead of the game at this point,” Hagerstown Public Works Manager Eric Deike said. “But most of our snow comes in January and February. We’re definitely not out of the woods.”

Deike said the city has spent $13,700 on salt since this fiscal year began July 1. During that time, the city salted when a premature snow storm struck on Halloween and after a light dusting on Jan. 3.

He said the city is typically well above that cost around this time of year.

The city pays $65.87 for a ton of salt and stores it in a 1,000-ton bin off Memorial Boulevard, Deike said.

But that inventory can dwindle quickly in the event of a snow storm, when crews spread 200 to 300 tons of salt on average.

“We have enough salt for three or four storms,” Deike said of the city’s existing supply.

Ed Plank, director of the Washington County Highway Department, said the county has enough salt to last 30 to 45 days in normal winter conditions.

“We haven’t used hardly any material at all,” Plank said. “We’re in good as shape for January as we can hope for ... Hopefully, this mild trend will continue.”

Temperatures will range from the 20s to 30 degrees until Monday, with the only snow expected early Friday morning, according to a National Weather Service forecast.

Plank said he didn’t know how much the county spent last year on snow removal, including overtime, gasoline and maintenance costs.

The county budgets $500,000 per year on salt, he said. Money that is left over usually goes toward patching roads and repairing pipes in the spring.

Plank said one of his department’s highest costs over the last three years has been for equipment. The county hasn’t replaced anything in four to five years, meaning one or a number of the 40 trucks that the county uses for snow removal could break down at a vital time.

“The employees of the Highway Department of Washington County do an excellent job of maintaining the roads — especially in foul weather,” he said. “Our road crews are second to none. They don’t get enough credit for their effort.”

Plank said the county pays $67.98 per ton of salt. The county pays more than the city, because the supplier charges a higher delivery fee to take the salt to Sideling Hill and places farther west than Hagerstown, he said.

The county has the capacity to store up to 2,000 tons of salt and plows about 850 miles of roadway, which takes road crews take five to six hours to complete, Plank said.

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