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Plenty of salt on hand in case of more spring snow

Despite this week’s spring snowfall, regional government and county officials said they’ve mad it through the extended season with plenty of salt on hand and stayed within budget — even though they’ve used more salt than during last year’s mild winter.

Statewide, the Ohio Department of Transportation has used almost 660,000 tons of salt so far this year, at a cost of $73.6 million. That’s significantly more than the 369,000 tons used at the same time last year, but less than the 723,000 tons used the previous year.

“There really is no normal,” said Rob James, Centerville’s Public Works Director. “It varies widely. Every snowstorm is so different.”

It was too early this week for most officials to know how much this week’s storms cost but most said they have more salt on hand if the region gets even more snow.

Statewide, ODOT has a capacity of 686,000 tons, and currently has 252,000 on hand, said ODOT District 8 spokeswoman Sharon Smigielski.

District 8, which serves eight counties across southwest Ohio, including Greene, Preble, Butler, Warren and Clinton, has used 39,924 tons and spent $2.5 million this year, Smigielski said.

District 7, whose eight counties include Montgomery, Clark, Darke, Miami and Champaign, has used 55,572 tons and spent about $3.5 million, said spokeswoman Mandi Abner.

Local authorities also reported normal levels of salt use for the year.

In Centerville, James said the city has a 3,000-ton salt facility and the city usually keeps about 2,500 handy, refilling as needed. James usually budgets for 2,000 tons per year, and said he has kept within that budget despite having to order additional salt a few times during this winter. But he won’t have final numbers until year’s end, because the city is on a calendar-year budget cycle and December could bring snow.

In Clark County, the engineer’s office usually uses about 3,700 tons annually, but is currently at about 4,000, or “just a tick over a normal average year,” said Ned Weber, deputy engineer for operations and maintenance.

In Montgomery County, where the engineer’s office is responsible for 315 miles of roads, Engineer Paul Gruner said Monday that the county still had plenty of salt left at its 10,000-ton facility, but like Centerville, had replenished through the year. The county budgets for 7,000 to 8,000 tons per year and Gruner said he did not anticipate any budgetary issues.

“It’s really been pretty much a normal winter for us,” Gruner said.

The mild winter last year helped the county save money because it did not have to replenish and kept the money in reserve for this year, Gruner said.

Fred Stovall, Dayton’s Public Works Director, said Monday that the city has used 9,424 tons and still has nearly 8,000 tons in inventory.

“We had a lot of small events this season,” Stovall said.

In contrast, the city only used 3,600 tons the previous winter, but “last year was a real mild winter,” Stovall said.

Salt costs $63 per ton, so the 800 tons dropped earlier this week cost the city $50,400, Stovall said Monday. With overtime, the storm cost the city $74,000 as of Monday, he said.

“Hopefully, this is the last hurrah for the season,” Stovall said.

As of this week, Stovall’s department had spent $168,000 on overtime, or 69 percent of the overtime budget for the year. But that is normal, he said, because road crews rarely are called out on overtime during the warmer months.

Salt use varies widely, depending on conditions, so it’s difficult to make conclusions based on one year. This winter has been closer to the winters of 2008-09 and 2009-10, with the winter of 2010-11 being unusually heavy and last year’s being unusually mild, officials said.

“They tend to even out,” said Centerville’s James.

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