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Monday, March 30th, 2015

Less snow this winter lets communities salt away major savings

By Jared Mauch
Less snow this winter resulted in less spending for many Mercer and Auglaize county communities, with some cutting their overtime and salt use in half.
The savings may result in some smoother roads this summer, officials said.
Local weather forecaster Dennis Howick measured 22.2 inches of snow through February compared with more than 60 inches last winter.
Mercer County road crews recorded 860 overtime hours this season, a drop of 1,000 hours from last winter, county engineer Jim Wiechart said. His department spent $364,993 for labor, equipment and material this winter, compared with $486,873 spent last winter.
Only 1,351 tons of salt were used, down 2,000 tons from the 3,337 tons used in 2013-14.
County crews were on the road 50 days this season after treating the roads 62 days the winter before. The $120,000 in savings may go toward chip-seal resurfacing on county roads, Wiechart said.
Auglaize County crews cut their overtime hours in half from 2,700 in 2013-14 to only 1,300 hours this winter, county engineer Douglas Reinhart said.
Although the number of hours was cut in half, most of the snow seemed to fall during weekends, Reinhart said.
"It seemed like crews were out every Saturday, Sunday or all weekend. It was hard to give them an entire weekend off," he said.
His crews used 1,630 tons of salt this season, down 200 tons from last year.
The county spent about $9,000 for beet juice, which is added to the salt and stone mix, reducing salt consumption by 20 percent, he said.
County crews were out 48 days this season, two days fewer than last season, Reinhart said.
"Gas was a big expense for us last year," Reinhart said.     Fuel cost only $53,000 this year compared with $88,000 the year before, he said.
The savings may go toward resurfacing roads, Reinhart said. Crews resurfaced only two miles of county roads last year because capital improvement funds were diverted to help pay for $334,942 in snow removal costs.
He is still calculating this year's total cost and he hesitated to call the winter season over.
"I wait until winter is officially deemed over before refilling on salt," Reinhart said. Last year his department paid $69 per ton of salt. He hopes the price remains steady this year.
Celina cut its salt use in half this season, spreading 800 tons compared with 1,600 last season, public works superintendent Joe Wolfe said.
"It's been a lot better winter," he said.
The city also tallied 566 hours of overtime compared with 950 last season.
Total expenses dropped about $75,000 this year compared with about $154,000 last season.
"I only budgeted what I needed," he said. "I went way over what I had expected last year."
St. Marys Superintendent of General Services Terry Hubbell said city crews used 585 tons of salt and grit this year, down slightly from the 600 tons used last season.
However, with salt costs rising from $52.21 per ton last year to $85.63 per ton this year, the cost rose to $31,240 from $25,182 last season.
"We had more snow last season but we spent more this year," he said.
City crews tallied nearly 300 fewer overtime hours - 420 this year compared with 710 last year. Much of the overtime, 218 hours, occurred on weekends.
The city, though, did save on equipment repairs, Hubbell said. Only $7,000 was spent this year compared with $10,500 last season.
Coldwater Village Manager/Engineer Eric Thomas said the town used only 473 tons of salt through February compared with 600 tons last winter.
The town used a mere 28 hours of overtime against the 237 hours through last February.
"We worked about two days in total overtime. The guys came in an hour or two early or stayed a little later," he said.
The village saved about $9,000 in salt expenses and may use it to fund street repairs, Thomas said.
Fort Recovery Fiscal Officer Roberta Staugler said the village used only 76 tons of salt, 36 hours of overtime and $6,114 in seasonal expenses this year. Last year, village crews used 85 tons of salt, 180 hours of overtime work and $6,225 for seasonal expenses.
Less snow does not always mean less road salt was used.
New Bremen crews used a record amount of salt, 325 tons this season, village administrator Wayne York said.
"We try the best we can with our roads," York said.
The village does not report overtime hours but York suspects that figure is a record high, as well.
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