Cumberland Times-News

Local News

February 20, 2014

Administrative hurdles make getting salt supplies difficult

LONACONING — Getting a load of road salt to melt ice on Lonaconing’s streets shouldn’t require the town’s truck to make more than one trip, according to Councilman Mark Greenwald.

“Safety should come ahead of any administrative process,” Greenwald said, just hours after making his way down an icy Jackson Street where he said he saw vehicles sliding sideways and backward Wednesday morning.

Freezing rain blanketed Allegany County during the early morning hours and was still hanging on as work commutes began. Rising temperatures voided the problem in most locations as the morning wore on.

Greenwald said there are times when truck drivers go to LaVale to obtain salt from the Maryland State Highway Administration at its district headquarters, but are told they then must drive to a salt dome south of Frostburg alongside state Route 36 to fill up because supplies are greater there.

“Even if we would make a phone call to LaVale and find out that we will get the salt at (Route) 36, we still have to go to LaVale to pick up the paperwork first,” said Tom Reed.

Reed works for Miller Environmental, the company re-tained by Lonaconing to perform public works in the small town.

“Sometimes we call LaVale and nobody answers, especially if it is not during normal working hours,” Reed said.

Greenwald said he would like the town to be able to make one phone call, determine where the salt should be obtained and send the truck to that location.

“We’re talking 15 minutes driving to LaVale and 15 coming back before the salt can be picked up if the truck has to go to the Frostburg (area) location,” he said. “Also you are putting life and property in danger during those drives on icy roads.”

“Small towns have a problem keeping salt because you have to keep it dry,” Reed said. “If it gets wet it solidifies and can’t be spread.” Reed said the truck used in Lonaconing holds up to 2 tons of salt.

The ice contributed to numerous fender-bender accidents throughout Allegany County, according to a spokesman at the 911 center.

“Just use common sense,” Greenwald said. “During an ice storm you want to get salt at the nearest location.”

Barton Mayor Daniel Colmer said the town has obtained all of its salt this winter from the SHA district headquarters in LaVale.

“We’ve had no problem getting salt there. A year ago we got an old truck from the county and it holds up to 10 tons of salt, so we have been stockpiling and have enough for three more storms,” Colmer said.

Colmer said a town crew salted the roads on hills Wednesday morning, but let the sun take care of the remainder of the streets.

“It was bad for a while early on,” Colmer said.

At 3 p.m. in Cumberland the temperature had risen to 57.

Lonaconing is one of several municipalities and government agencies that has an agreement to purchase salt from SHA, according to agency spokeswoman Heather Keels.

“For record keeping, security and accountability reasons, SHA’s agreements with these agencies specify that the salt must be picked up from the main SHA shop, in this case the LaVale shop, where inventory personnel are available to issue, receive and approve withdrawal forms to document the amount of salt acquired,” Keels said.

“The salt storage facility on (state Route) 36 is not staffed and is generally reserved for SHA use. However, on Monday, the town was directed to pick up from that dome because the LaVale shop had limited staffing due to the Presidents Day holiday, while the (Route) 36 facility was receiving a salt shipment and had the staffing to assist. This was a unique situation due to the holiday.”

When salt is loaded at the LaVale shop, personnel record the date, the municipality or agency’s charge number, the number of scoops or tons of salt received, the tag number of the truck, and the signatures of the receiving driver and the SHA loader operator. This information is used to bill the agency and to maintain an accurate inventory of salt on hand so SHA can reorder appropriate amounts, according to Keels.

Agencies that have agreements to purchase salt from SHA in Allegany County include the county, the board of education, Cumberland, Frostburg, Barton, Lonaconing, Midland and Westernport, the state correctional facilities and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science laboratory.

SHA has more than 150,000 tons of salt on hand across the state, more than enough to get through at least a few more statewide storms, according to Keels.

SHA maintains numbered routes in Maryland’s 23 counties. “SHA moves salt supplies to ensure we have adequate amounts in our more than 90 salt barns and domes across the state.  Recently, SHA transported some salt from Allegany County to salt domes in counties to the east,” Keels said.

Contact Michael A. Sawyers at msawyers@times-news.com.

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