Frequent storms stretching overtime budgets, salt stockpiles for some towns

By Matthew Daigle, Sun Journal
Posted March 03, 2013, at 6:28 a.m.

DIXFIELD, Maine — Following a tumultuous February that dumped nearly 50 inches of snow upon certain areas of Maine, some towns have reported feeling the pressure of depleted salt and sand stockpiles.

According to Dave Phair, the Public Works foreman for the town of Dixfield, his department has currently used “about 80 percent of the salt budget” and is “80 percent into the overtime budget.”

“Of course, these are all rough numbers, since I don’t have the stats right in front of me,” Phair said, adding that the town’s stockpile for sand is still good.

“With the sand stockpile, it’s a little different than the salt,” Phair said. “We’re on something called ‘salt priority,’ a state directive where we try to limit the amount of sand we use while making the roads as safe as possible, as quickly as we can.”

Phair said that the best statistics to determine whether or not the town is in danger of running low on supplies is “looking at how many times we’ve been out.”

“Last year, we had to go out 46 times from the beginning to the end of the season, and that was the highest amount since I’ve been here,” Phair said. “Right now, we’re at 42 times, so we’re on our way to breaking another record.”

Phair pointed out that the amount of snow the town receives is not always predictive of how much salt or sand Public Works uses.

“Some years, we have a lot of black ice, which requires more sand and salt,” Phair said.

Andy Russell, the Public Works superintendent for Rumford, said that his department “has plenty of sand” and that they “buy salt as they need it.” As for their budget for overtime hours, Russell said that he “hasn’t even hit the halfway mark yet.”

“At this point, I’m not too worried,” Russell said. “There could always be a few more big storms, but I’m hoping we’ve seen the worst.”

During the Feb. 26 selectmen’s meeting in Mexico, Town Manager John Madigan, who also acts as the road commissioner, told the board that the salt and sand reserves for the town were “doing great” and that they were not in danger of running out anytime soon.

Despite February’s snowfall being higher than average, Phair said that “the next 10 days look pretty good.”

“Last year, we were hit hard throughout February, and then the first week of March, we had to shut down the ice rink because the sun was so strong,” Phair said. “If the snow were to continue this much into March, it might be a different story, but I think we’ll be all set.”

According to an employee at the National Weather Service in Gray, February 2013 was the third snowiest February in Maine of all time with 49.5 inches measured in several different towns. February 1969 holds the historical snow record, with 61.2 inches recorded. A close second occurred in 1893, with 50.9 inches recorded.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/03/03/news/frequent-storms-stretching-overtime-budgets-salt-stockpiles-for-some-towns/ printed on August 22, 2014