White stuff costs greenbacks
The snow storms and sub-freezing weather of the week-before-last cost Woodford County taxpayers many thousands of dollars.
How many thousands is nearly impossible to say, but officials agree that the cost of salt is less than what people are paid to spread it. Woodford Road Engineer Buan Smith said 14 of his 16 employees put in 25 to 30 hours of overtime apiece from Friday, Jan. 12 through Tuesday, Jan. 16.
“It’s probably a couple of (extra) thousand dollars, altogether, for the pay period,” Smith said.
During that period, he estimates the people manning the 11 trucks used to treat roads and clear them used between 350-400 tons of salt, which, at $65 per ton, amounts to $22,750.
The county still has about 700 tons left, with 300 more to arrive in the near future, Smith said.
Other costs are harder to quantify.
“We use more fuel, naturally, because we drove the trucks around a whole lot longer, but that’s also a budget item,” Smith said.
Smith said his department is responsible for maintaining 155 “lane miles” of county roads and that while his crews did a good job from Jan. 12-16, though there’s always room for improvement.
“As far as getting it passable, everything went pretty well. … We could have done a little bit better, but that’s something we’ve got to talk about among ourselves – to make sure we do things as well as we possibly can to make the roads safe …” he said.
Smith said most snow events spark calls from people wondering when they’ll get their street or road cleared.
“This was kind of one of your snows (Tuesday, Jan. 16) where you went over a road and the next thing you know … and it probably takes you three or four hours to get back around again, and it doesn’t even look like it’s been touched. There were times people said nobody’s been out there, but we (had) …” Smith said. “We were chasing our tails pretty much all day, because we get one place taken care of and go on to the next place, and by the time we get back around again, you’ve got to start all over.”
Smith said he was happy that most people stayed off the roads, which made them easier to plow and kept emergency crews from having to rescue stranded motorists or respond to accidents.
In a separate interview, Miller echoed Smith.
“When it keeps snowing, you’re chasing your tail. You’re trying to keep it clear, (and) as soon as everything’s clear, you’re starting over. …
An ongoing … snow event is harder to manage than just a (situation where) snow comes in and it leaves, because … you’re treating and then you’re treating again …” Smith said.
Miller estimated that five employees put in 25.5 hours of overtime clearing the city’s 48 miles of city streets, at a cost of about $5,000.
They used “almost” 300 tons of salt at a cost of $57 per ton – “about” $15,000 worth.
Unlike the city of Versailles and Woodford County, the city of Midway uses a contractor (Wright Farm Services of Richmond) to clear 11 miles of city streets.
The city pays per-event, and sometimes the company only pre-treats the roads – if little or snow follows, they don’t return, Vandegrift said. He praised the contractor’s work during Jan. 12-16, noting that the extreme cold over the first few days made it more difficult.
“There was only so much that anybody could do, because that salt wasn’t really working. When it gets down below 15 degrees, that salt just really doesn’t operate the way it’s supposed to,” Vandegrift said. “Given the amount of snow we got and the amount of time we got it in, as cold as it was, they still did a great job.”
Wright Farm Services uses salt purchased by the city, to which it adds beet juice before spreading. The beet juice makes the salt more effective and less corrosive to vehicles traveling on city roads, Vandegrift said.
Last year’s mild winter left plenty of salt at the city’s storage facility at the old city sewer plant, but Vandegrift said the Jan. 12-16 snowfalls used much of it, and the city will probably order more.
“We’ve spent about $4,000 this year (for Wright Farm Services) and we budget, like, $25,000 a year, so really, we’ve just kind of got a drop in the bucket this year,” Vandegrift said.