FAIRBORN — The city of Fairborn is “fully prepared” to take on the winter season with available salt, pre-treatment/enhancement methods in place and equipment ready to roll out.
The city has 900 tons of salt, and its contracts for obtaining more are set at an “order as needed” basis, guaranteeing delivery within five days, however it is not common for the city to run out of salt according to officials.
And with rising costs of salt, the street department has redesigned its winter-weather road treatment methods to be more efficient with its salt usage and reduce its operation costs. It has started utilizing more pre-treatment procedures, including salt brine, and salt enhancement options, such as beet-heat.
The city’s eight large trucks, capable of plowing and salting, are also ready, as well as up to eight pick-up trucks with plows attached.
“Snow removal is not a function of aesthetics,” said Sean Sink, superintendent of the streets and sanitation division. “Snow removal is a function of safety. Our plan needs to fit with the public safety folks.”
Sink added that he has seen dramatic improvements with the departments shared safety goals since becoming more unified with their efforts.
Officials from the street, fire and police departments identify high-priority roads that have a higher likelihood of an injury or fatality. These roads, such as Col. Glenn Highway and Dayton-Yellow Springs Road, and those with hills, bridges, overpasses and sharp curves are treated first.
Once the 28 identified roads are cleared, those that serve as major connectors to housing plats are treated next, followed by the plat roads.
“Our goal is to treat everything,” Sink said.
Fairborn citizens may observe “inexperienced driver issues,” according to Sink, as it includes Wright State University and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, which may have drawn individuals to the area who have never seen snow or experienced driving in Ohio’s typical winter weather conditions.
“If a person feels the roads are iffy — stay home,” he said.
Greene County Engineer Bob Geyer is taking a “wait and see” approach toward purchasing road salt for county-maintained roads this winter. He said Thursday that about 1,500 tons of road salt from last winter are still available in the county’s barns and about 7,500 tons have been bid out (this year at about $67 per ton) to be purchased as needed throughout the winter.
“I’m … of the opinion I’d rather keep the money in my pocket than put it in the salt company’s pocket then let that salt be sitting here this time next year,” Geyer said. “When I decide I want it, I call and tell them how many tons I want.”
The county typically buys salt in 1,000-ton increments. According to Geyer, it takes about 100 tons of salt to cover county roads in one pass.
“If I [have] 1,500 tons in the barn, I [have] enough there to be able to see short range what the weather is going to be doing,” Geyer said. “I’m going to go by what the weather dictates what I have to do, not, ‘Because it’s winter time I’m gonna fill my barn up,’ which is what most people do.”
The “wait and see” approach could help to keep costs down after an expensive 2014-15 winter.
“Last year was a killer,” Geyer said. “When you’re spending almost $750,000 to $1 million out of a $6 million budget on salt, that kinda kicks you in the slats.”
According to Geyer, “we’re looking at above normal temperatures through January,” he said. “It’s about time for a mild winter. We’ve had too many bad ones in a row. Go, El Niño.”
Sink hopes citizens are patient with Fairborn’s street department’s efforts, and wants them to understand that it has had personnel changes in recent times. Although those behind the wheel are experienced plow-drivers, they will be in the process of learning new routes as they treat the roads this season.
“Be safe,” Sink said. “Be patient.”
Citizens can aid the street department’s snow-removal efforts by avoiding parking their vehicles on the streets if they are aware of an upcoming snowfall and by shoveling the snow to the right corner of their driveways as it creates an easier means of clearing the streets.
Sink advised citizens to keep plenty of distance between themselves and snow plows, as it is difficult for a plow driver to identify what is traveling directly behind them and some areas may call for the plows to be put in reverse.
“According to weather reports, we’re going to have a [record] El Niño year so it’s going to be dryer and warmer than normal,” Sink said. “We hope to not have to get out as much.”
Whitney Vickers can be reached by calling her directly at 937-502-4532, or via Twitter @wnvickers. Reach Nathan Pilling by calling him directly at 937-502-4498 or on Twitter @xdgnatepilling.