It cost a ton to keep road clear this winter
by James Howell
As the temperatures climbed to spring-like conditions here this week, it was time to tally up the cost in labor and salt to keep the county’s road clear during a winter that tested the mettle of the men and machines at Ashe County’s N.C. Department of Transportation maintenance yard.
“We’ve averaged about 70-75 hours-per-week,” said Kenneth Clark, the TS-2 supervisor at the Ashe County DOT. “We even averaged 80 hours one week.”
According to Randall Miles, county maintenance engineer for Ashe’s Department of Transportation office, a total of 21,992 man hours have been worked, including the night shift that worked consecutively for 53 nights straight from Jan. 15, through March 8.
According to Clark, local state workers didn’t even manage to squeeze in a two-day weekend away from work from Jan. 15 - March 8.
Clark said one of his fellow employees informed him he has worked more straight days this winter than any other winter in the past 20 years, including the 2009-2010 winter.
All of this work meant DOT employees were almost continually spreading salt to keep roads ice-free.
Miles said the Ashe County DOT used 9,386 tons of salt at a material cost of $819,867 during this winter’s storm events.
“The total dollar amount spent on snow and ice removal to date is $2,282,167. This number will continue to grow as bills are still being paid for Rental Snow/Ice Removal Equipment such as Salter Trucks and Graders,” said Miles in an email.
On Wednesday, truck after truck visited the Ashe County DOT to deliver several tons of salt to the DOT’s giant salt dome in preparation for next winter.
“Well, we hope we won’t need to use any more salt this winter,” joked Clark.
One of the main reasons why the DOT has worked so many hours this winter is because of flooding that occurred on Jan. 30.
“The Jan. 30 flood event also added an extra burden to our work force this winter that we don’t normally have to deal with,” said Miles.
The damage left in the wake of the flood caused the DOT to fall behind, causing employees to play catch-up this winter with snow removal.
According to Miles, estimates for the flood damage for roadways and other structures (like bridges and drainage pipes) total $3,665,000.
Miles said a total of 5,638 man hours have been used so far for flood damages, which will continue on into the summer months before all of the damage has been repaired.
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