Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

Local News

January 31, 2014

Piles of snow result in piles of expense

(Continued)

Franklin County has spent around $74,000 on salt this season, reported Hollie Maxie, Franklin County Highway Department secretary. That equates to 1,085 tons used plus "400 tons on order, but we have not received it yet."

Compared to the 2012-13 winter, the mildest she's seen in 13 years on the job, the county has needed 5,225 extra gallons of diesel fuel in December and January, costing $16,903, to keep plowing vehicles moving.

From December 2013 through Jan. 17, Franklin County has shelled out $9,157 for 414.25 hours of plowing overtime pay.

Is there enough money and supplies on hand for future snow pushing if winter continues to be snowier than usual? Maxie replied, "Money, yes. Salt, I would say no. I really don't think we will get the 400 tons" because it is in so much demand.

"You just never know what to expect from Mother Nature. The guys have been doing the best they can do, and actually calls have been down this season. I think a lot of people have just been staying in."

Ripley County has spent $83,700 on about 1,350 tons of salt, reports highway garage superintendent Owen Heaton. He doesn't have dollar amounts yet for extra fuel and plowing overtime costs.

Heaton is worried about the salt supply if storms continue. "We probably have 350 tons of salt on hand. We mix that with cinders (before spreading on roads). That would get us through a couple of storms, maybe, if they're not too severe. We depleted our money for salt already. Thanks to the council and commissioners, we do have (more) money to buy salt."

However, its price has skyrocketed from $62 a ton to $205 a ton. "We just couldn't afford it."

Debbie Blank can be contacted at debbie.blank@batesvilleheraldtribune.com or 812-934-4343, Ext. 113.

INDOT winter spending abnormally high The National Weather Service office in Indianapolis has recorded the second-highest snowfall total for a winter season on record through Jan. 21. The Indiana Department of Transportation's yellow plow trucks have logged nearly 4.3 million miles and deployed 265,000 tons of granular salt during this record winter through Jan. 18, said spokesperson Will Wingfield. In addition, workers already spread nearly 2.5 million gallons of salt brine on Hoosier highways. Over the past five years, the average cost of INDOT's winter operations including overtime, fuel and salt has been $33.8 million. With this winter a little more than half over, officials estimated it has invested more than $31 million as of Jan. 18. Its maintenance budget is funded primarily through vehicle registration fees and an 18-cent tax charged for every gallon of gas. Indiana fuel taxes have not increased in more than a decade. Before predicted winter weather, INDOT leaders deploy up to 2,100 drivers, mechanics, clerks and managers to work alternating 12-hour shifts, seven days per week, if needed. Each plow route takes two to three hours to complete with salt assisting in melting between passes, according to Wingfield. For up-to-the-minute road conditions and closures, drivers may visit http://indot.carsprogram.org or dial 800-261-ROAD.

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