Following last winter's
onslaught many are anxiously anticipating what kind of winter
we'll see this year. The 2013-14 season was the second snowiest
in Greater Cincinnati in modern times, but two winters before
that was the second least snowiest. Since there is no way to
really know what mother nature will dish out, local public works
agencies can only do their best to be prepared based on experience
and seasonal averages, but always being ready for the worst.
The Butler County Engineer's
Office is gearing up for its annual winter prep which includes
a Snow Summit next week and truck Roadeo the following week.
County Engineer Greg Wilkens points out that both are designed
to pull in other public agencies in a collaborative effort that
involves idea and resource sharing. "As the price of materials
continues to soar, it's imperative that we work together on behalf
of the taxpayers to conserve and share resources as much as we
can," Wilkens said.
The BCEO hosted a Salt
Crisis Roundtable two weeks ago sponsored by the American Public
Works Association (APWA) - Southwest Ohio Chapter. Over 85 officials
representing jurisdictions from throughout the region participated
in the event, which was designed to address the salt shortage
and how to conserve road salt more effectively.
The BCEO's annual Snow
Summit has a more local flavor, intended for local Butler County
townships and cities to gather and coordinate efficient organization
among agencies during severe winter weather events. This year's
Summit will be held next Tuesday, October 21 from 9:00 a.m. until
12:00 noon at the Engineer's Office.
Those gathered will
learn, discuss, and work to better organize winter operations,
policies, and procedures. The nationwide salt shortage will also
be an important topic. Attending the Summit will be management
teams and supervisors who play a role in winter weather operations
for the County, cities, townships, and various other agencies,
including the Red Cross, Police and Fire Chiefs Associations,
and representatives from local school districts.
The annual Snowfighters
Truck Roadeo is the second component of winter preparations at
the Engineer's Office. Snow plow drivers from cities and townships
throughout Butler County join BCEO crews for in-class training,
review of safety procedures, salt truck preparation, and the
actual roadeo competition. The competition allows crews to practice
truck maneuvers through an obstacle course designed to simulate
actual winter situations. BCEO crews will also run their actual
snow plow routes, re-familiarizing themselves with various land
features and structures near the roadway.
This year's Roadeo
is scheduled for Thursday, October 30.
The BCEO will begin
this winter season with 13,000 tons of salt stored in two barns,
each with a capacity of 6,500 tons. "We are fully stocked
thanks to good planning and a proactive approach by our Operations
Department," Wilkens said.
Another proactive and
cost-saving measure by the Butler County Engineer's Office is
to get its salt contract in place early -- as in the previous
spring -- thus avoiding the late demand and high prices. This
year the BCEO awarded its salt contract for the upcoming winter
season back on May 22 to Cargill Deicing Technology which submitted
a low bid of $66.71 per ton. Even if road salt is in high demand
this winter, the BCEO is locked in at that price. There are many
reports of salt prices exceeding $150 per ton already this fall.
"We are fortunate,
but still must do all that we can to conserve our salt supplies,"
said Scott Bressler, BCEO Operations Deputy. "That includes
the use of other deicing agents such as brine, calcium, and beet
juice. It also means more efficient calibration of equipment
used to disperse the salt." Bressler said that his snow
and ice control team has a collective 540 years of experience
with an average of 16.36 years. "We have one of the most
experienced teams in the area," he noted. "We're grateful
for their hard work and endurance each year."