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02-13-03: Add lots of salt
Mercer County is spending more this year to clear roads

The Daily Standard
    With snow falling at least once every week, and more on the way for tomorrow, road salt is drying up the budgets of local and county street departments.
    "We're spending more money on salt than we'd like to," reported Mercer County Engineer Jim Wiechart early Tuesday.
    That night it snowed again, sending the county's total bill for this season's snowfall to more than $250,000, which includes the regular hourly costs for the crew, overtime and salt costs.
    The high snow removal and salting costs take away money from the county's roadway improvement budget, the engineer said. Less roads can be resurfaced, and fewer road culverts and bridges get attention during the project season between April and November.
    Wiechart said the snow budget hasn't dripped into other street funds in the last two years.
    "It happens once in a while, but you have to deal with it," he said.
    The tree trimming program also suffers when snow removal costs start to rise. The engineer said each year his crew creates a list of trees with branches nearing the roadway to be trimmed.
    "We haven't even made a dent in that list yet," Wiechart said. "I hate to see that. I get kind of frustrated because I want us to do everything we can."
    Typically the county gets 2,000 tons of salt, which is mixed with grit to make the road mixture. Already the county has ordered another 400 tons of salt.
    "We may need another 400 tons before the season's out, if we keep getting our weekly snow," Wiechart said.
    In Celina, another shipment arrived at the salt bunkers Wednesday.
    Celina Safety Service Director Mike Sovinski calculated that nearly $30,000 of city money has been spent on purchasing salt this season, including Wednesday's 120-ton dump.
    In the 2000-2001 snow season, $18,000 was spent on buying salt. During 2001-2002, $20,000 was spent on salt.
    Celina Auditor Pat Smith said $12,100 has been spent on overtime for city road crews. The amount of regular wages paid to the crew during snow season wasn't calculated.
    The increase in salt spending will result in less money for other street cleaning and repair duties, Sovinski said.


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