Franklin Township tallies cost of winter storms and prepares for this year
By John Chambless
Last winter's storm season was a budget-buster for many townships. In Franklin Township, the road crews were sent out more than 20 times between January and March.
In a newsletter sent to residents last week, the township listed snow and ice removal costs for the first quarter of 2014 at $265,962.73. Material costs (for salt and sand) were $90,037.48, and contract labor and equipment costs were $175,925.25. Dealing with December storms came out of the 2013 budget. In total, the cost of the 2013-14 winter storm season was $321,541.36.
In Franklin Townshp, salt for use on icy roads is stored in a small shed next to the township office. In an average winter, about 549 tons of salt are used. From January to March alone, though, some 333 tons were used in the township. Near the end of the season, township officials were struggling for salt, and competing with surrounding towns for the dwindling supply. The small storage space was in need of repeated resupplying. Paying a premium price for the available salt and paying private haulers to bring it to the township added $19,000 to the cost of the materials.
The township had budgeted $145,000 for snow and ice removal in 2014, but to date, the township is over buddget by $45,037.48 in materials and $75,925.25 for labor.
Board of supervisors chairman John Auerbach addressed the issue of a new salt storage facility in his message to residents, writing, “The township is in the process of installing a new salt storage facility with a capacity to contain the entire winter’s salt use. The budget strategy for the building is to fund it without borrowing by allocating available capital between the building and the road program. Typically, the township spends $500,000 to $550,000 on the road program. For this year, we will allocate $250,000 for the building, with the remainder directed to the road program.”
The township's use of anti-skid materials on the roads – a grit mixed with the salt – caused problems after the snows melted, leaving what Auerbach called “an enormous amount” of anti-skid left on the roads. The material is typically picked up by township crews at the end of the winter to keep the material out of drainage systems, and to re-use the following year. Auerbach said the volume of anti-skid and the swales along developed roads made collecting the material particularly difficult.
“As a result, we are re-evaluating the application of anti-skid,” he wrote. “Many surrounding townships do not apply anti-skid and many use it sparingly. A possible first step in testing the reduction of the use of anti-skid for our township is to apply salt to the developed areas and salt/anti-skid to the feeder roads. Continuous monitoring of the performance of this technique throughout the winter and making adjustments will be essential.”
To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.