DARKE COUNTY — Locals would be hard pressed to declare winter “over” after the cold, wet conditions seen during the first week of April, as “Old Man Winter” made one last appearance on county roads this month.
“We sent trucks out with salt and grits this past Saturday morning (April 9) on slick roads, which is one of the latest days in the year this has ever been necessary,” said Darke County Engineer Jim Surber.
The winter of 2015-2016 taken as a whole, however, was a tame one. The milder conditions saved taxpayers money, too, as the Darke County Highway Department did not utilize nearly the amount of road salt and grit it normally uses.
Surber says he estimates the winter season’s lack of snow and ice led to costs “40 to 50 percent less” than normal.
“Annually, salt and ice grits purchase for the season to treat 520 miles of [county] road runs between $220,000 to $240,000,” he said.
“Last year, our total departmental fuel costs totalled $75,973 or an average of $6,300 per month,” Surber added. “So far, in 2016, we have spent $7,006 for fuel since January 1, or an average of $2,001 per month.”
He also explained that this year’s mild winter led to less money spent on labor and equipment, saying these were “much less for the winter of 2015-2016 than any in recent times.”
Surber said overtime costs have also been much less compared to the average winter.
Further, the county garage retains much of the salt it purchased in anticipation of wintry road conditions.
“Last year, we purchased a total of 2,700 tons of road salt at $75 per ton for the winter, have taken delivery of 2,000 tons and are obligated to receive the remaining 700. Our salt storage building is currently filled to capacity,” he said.
Surber says most of the savings will be realized next fall as the county will need to purchase far less salt going into the winter months of 2016 and 2017. He said the salt currently on hand will be good to use for the coming winter if it is kept “under roof and not exposed to moisture.”
Mandi Dillon, public information officer with the Ohio Department of Transportation, said the mild winter also freed up ODOT crews for tasks other than de-icing state routes in the county.
“Our crews take pride in being prepared for snow and ice events and they did see a few this winter, but it was milder than some previous winters,” she said. “When temperatures are more mild it allows our crews to work on other things such as pavement repairs.”
Perhaps the best news for local residents? Weather forecasters are predicting a return to sunny skies and temperatures heading to the low 70s as the weekend approaches.
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