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Street departments salt away savings of mild winter: County, city officials have jump on road crews' preparedness as snow season approaches

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Local street and highway departments will save money on the costs of plowing snow and salting roads this year after a mild winter last year.

Greenwood, Franklin and the county did not spend as much money on supplies or employee overtime pay last winter and plan to use those savings as they prepare for the upcoming season of snow and ice.

Greenwood and county departments have not had to buy salt yet this year because their storage barns are already full, and Franklin has spent only half of its budget for employee overtime pay.

Each department orders the same amount of salt and budgets the same amount for overtime expenses every year because it does not know what the weather will be like. But this year, the departments have leftover supplies and money that can be used this winter.

Both the Greenwood street department and Johnson County Highway Department already have salt ready for the winter.

Greenwood tries to keep its barn full with about 700 tons of salt throughout the year. The county currently has between 800 and 1,000 tons of salt leftover from last year, which is about half of what the department uses in a normal winter, county highway department director Luke Mastin said. As the county starts to use that salt, the department will order more.

“It’s a good practice, if you have the ability to, to keep salt on hand during the winter. It can be difficult to get a delivery when you might need it,” Mastin said.

Franklin’s street department is expecting to use a little more than half of the money it budgeted for overtime pay this year, street commissioner Ron Collins said.

At the end of September, the city had spent $21,000 of the $40,000 it budgeted for overtime pay in the street department, and Collins said he does not expect to use much more the rest of the year.

Most of the overtime paid by the city was for cleaning up wind damage this summer, Collins said.

The county highway department plans to spend $65,000 on overtime pay each winter but spent less than a third of that money last winter, which is rare, Mastin said.

“We budget for a normal winter. So last season was more of an anomaly than anything,” Mastin said.

Franklin also spent nearly $10,000 out of the street department’s budget this year to upgrade one of the city’s salt trucks in hopes of saving money in the future. Greenwood is expecting to spend money on equipment in future years.

The upgrade to Franklin’s trucks will allow the department to treat salt in the truck with a liquid that makes it melt ice at a lower temperature instead of treating the salt before it is loaded into the truck, Collins said.

The truck upgrade will allow the department to treat the salt as needed depending on the temperature, which would save the city money by not using as much of the liquid, Collins said. The city plans to upgrade all of its eight trucks over the next few years, and once they are all upgraded, the department should use about a third less of the liquid each year — a savings of about $2,000 a year, he said.

Greenwood street department superintendent Greg Owens said the city’s equipment, including dump trucks used to plow snow, also will need to be upgraded soon because the city is having to spend more time getting the trucks ready for the winter due to their age. Greenwood plans to buy new dump trucks with snow plows by 2014, he said.

The city’s street department has to fix rust and repair holes on the equipment in preparation for the winter, which adds to the time it takes to get them street-ready, Owens said.

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