DARKE COUNTY — Snowy weather is great, if you’re a kid.
The younger crowd takes great delight in making snowmen and snow angels, staging snowball fights, constructing snow forts, sledding and snowboarding, not to mention seeing their school cancel classes to pursue these wintry amusements.
For us grownups who have to scrape windshields, shovel driveways and brave icy road conditions, however, the prospect of snowfall is not always greeted with such enthusiasm.
Thankfully for drivers, state, county and municipal road crews stand ready to make those icy roads less hazardous this season.
ODOT’s Darke County garage, on the east side of Greenville, clears ice not only on state roads within the county, but national roads U.S. Route 36 and U.S. Route 127.
In all, the agency maintains 535 lane miles of roads within the county.
According to ODOT Public Information Officer Mandi Dillon, the local garage currently has 4,900 tons of salt, 9,600 gallons of agricultural deicer, 8,700 gallons of calcium, and 6,050 gallons of salt brine on hand. It operates with 22 employees and shifts into full staffing during a storm with 19 trucks out on the road and two loaders working.
Joining ODOT in its efforts to provide safe travel for commuters this winter is the Darke County Highway Department.
Department Superintendent Shane Coby has been on the job in Darke County for more than a decade — with his first 2.5 years as assistant superintendent, then the past eight years as superintendent.
He says the county’s Highway Department is well-prepared for whatever winter weather looms.
“Currently we have about 2,200 tons of salt on hand with access to another 2,500 tons of salt. On average we will use about 3,500 to 4,000 tons of salt to get through the year. We mix our salt with ice grits (little gravel) to make it go further. Plus it helps with traction while waiting on the salt to melt down the ice,” said Coby.
“At the Highway Dept. we have 26 people working. We have 20 designated snow plow routes, two employees who float around the county helping on routes, two mechanics who keep this equipment running and repaired and you have the assistant superintendent, Max Guillozet, and myself.”
With 520 lane miles of county roads to maintain, it’s all hands on deck when winter weather gets dangerous.
“With a minimally staffed crew, it really takes everybody to make this work out to serve the people in the quickest, most efficient way as possible,” said Coby. “Everybody here has to be responsible for more than one task. The men plowing also keep up with minor work on their trucks, the mechanics will be plowing snow if needed, the superintendents will be working on trucks, mixing material, loading trucks.”
“Even Darke County Engineer, Jim Surber, will be out in the mix of things, delivering fuel and helping where needed,” he said. “I cannot say enough good things about our staff. These men are asked to give up a lot in the winter time. If it is snowing or the wind is blowing with snow on the ground, it doesn’t matter if it Super Bowl Sunday or Christmas, we will be working. That is just how it goes and they know that.”
Greenville Street Department Superintendent Ryan Delk has 10 full-time employees, including himself, available for road-clearing duties when winter weather strikes.
“We also have four seasonal employees we can call on if things get really bad,” he said.
To clear the 150 lane miles within the city, the street department has about 800 tons of road salt at its Ohio Street facility at its disposal, but can also incorporate a beet juice chemical mixture to help de-ice city streets.
Delk says that his department will, as a rule of thumb, plow city streets when snowfall exceeds two inches, but that other factors may come into play when making the decision to plow.
“If we know the temperature is going up, and the sun will be out, we may hold off,” he said. “Though our goal is to make the streets as safe as possible, we have a budget to stay within.”
The state and county roads that go through Greenville are top priority for clearing, with busier thoroughfares next, followed by side streets. Regardless of location, the city urges citizens to move their vehicles from the streets to allow maximum access for the crews to clear snow and ice.
Coby says that all agencies working together is an important key to ensuring safe driving conditions.
“This department works very closely with all other county, township, village, and state departments,” he said. “Darke County Sheriff Toby Spencer and I will communicate before, during, and after the winter storms to make sure if there is anything either of our departments need. We also discuss things to see if there is anything we can do to make things better for each other or what worked and what didn’t work well. When we have severe weather conditions, we are all talking about what things we will be doing to try to keep the motoring public safe.”
Coby added, “We have a very good working relationship with ODOT, City of Greenville and township officials. Those departments are led by outstanding people, and I consider it a privilege to be able to work with them.”