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Oswego now mixing sand with road salt : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Oswego now mixing sand with road salt
Public works dept. moves to conserve salt; motorists urged to use extra caution

by John Etheredge


The Village of Oswego's Public Works Department has begun mixing sand with road salt in an effort to conserve the village's supply of road salt, Jennifer Hughes, village public works director, said Tuesday evening.

Hughes said public works crews are now only fully salting primary roads, hills and at selected intersections.

"You aren't going to see the clean streets. You will see snowpack on the streets," Hughes told village board members.

As a result, Hughes encouraged motorists to use extra caution when driving on local streets, especially when approaching intersections.

By mixing the sand with the road salt , Hughes said she is hopeful of extending the village's salt supply for the remaining weeks of the winter season.

Typically, public works officials are reluctant to use sand to improve traction on icy and snowy roads because sand can clog catch basins and storm sewers.

Hughes said the village currently has a supply of approximately 700 tons of salt.

She said public works crews typically use about 200 tons of salt on local streets following a snowstorm.

By mixing sand with the salt, Hughes said she is hopeful that her department can cut the amount of salt it uses per storm to approximately 100 tons, half the current amount.

If the village can reduce its salt usage to 100 tons or less, Hughes noted the village would have enough salt in its existing supply to handle up to seven more storms. However, she emphasized, how quickly the village will use its salt supply will depend upon the weather for the balance of the winter season.

She noted that long-range weather forecasts as of Tuesday evening called for additional snow this weekend and then again by the middle of next week.

Hughes also noted that a single ice storm could result in the village having to use a significant amount of salt. She said she would like to keep 200 to 300 tons of salt in reserve in the event of an ice storm.

The village's salt supply-like supplies in most other northern Illinois municipalities-has been stretched this winter due to the frequent snowstorms that have occurred since December.

"This is a region-wide problem; it is not isolated to Oswego," she said.

In addition, Hughes said the village's salt vendor recently advised her they would not have any additional salt available for purchase.

As a result, she said she has been contacting out-of-state salt vendors.

However, she said, the cost of salt has risen dramatically over the past few weeks as the supply has dwindled and purchasing salt-if it would be available--from an out-of-state vendor would also result in increased shipping charges.

Hughes noted the village is now competing with many other municipalities to purchase additional salt-at increased costs-to get through the winter.

Hughes said this winter's severe weather has taken a toll on the public works department crews-who have been working continuously over the past several weeks-and the department's budget.

She estimated the department is $25,000 over its overtime budget, $34,000 over on a contract to pay a private contractor to plow out the village's cul-de-sacs, and $50,000 over on salt purchases.

Hughes said funds to cover the additional expenses will come from village reserve funds.

Board member Scott Volpe told Hughes he believes the public works department has been "doing a fantastic job with the resources that you have."

Board member Gail Johnson agreed and said she believes residents need to understand that the salt shortage is not "not a price issue, but an availability issue."

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