Battling winter

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:53

    Old man winter forces all of us to prepare for ongoing inclement weather, but few of us may understand the obligation of a municipal government during the winter months. In addition to responding to emergencies under adverse conditions the other major public safety responsibility of local government is seasonal road maintenance. The affects of snow, sleet and ice not only require spring patching, but are a real-time winter challenge requiring municipalities to ensure the safe passage of traffic which may be confronted by deteriorated road conditions. The demands of winter road maintenance require the availability of a fleet of specialized vehicles and a substantial stock of ice melting and non-skid material, usually in the form of salt, sand or a similar mix. In recent years the Town of Tuxedo has been using a mixture of rock salt and magnesium chloride with a binding of molasses. This pre-mixed material called Clearlane is furnished to Tuxedo and other municipalities under New York State contract by the Cargill Salt Company of Cayuga Lake, New York. The Towns of Woodbury and Monroe also use Clearlane. Although it is more costly than the more traditional sand or rock salt, Tuxedo Highway Department Superintendent Joseph Tripoli claims Clearlane is superior due to its ability to melt snow and ice at a much colder temperature, whereas sand can freeze when wet and can also clog drains. Tripoli claims that today's black road policy of winter maintenance - which strives to ensure the highest level of road clearing and safety - also requires the use of additional material compared to past years. For example, 20 years ago the Tuxedo Highway Department would use 600 pounds of salt per lane mile. Today this has been increased to approximately 1,500 to 1,800 pounds of deicing material per lane mile. Village of Harriman Superintendent of Public Works John Karl uses both sand and rock salt but said his department uses the salt sparingly with concern for the potential environmental effects of salt on the villages many wells. Although municipalities anticipate ongoing inclement winter weather and stockpile road deicing material with a contingency supply, the potential still exists for shortages resulting from prolonged inclement weather. In emergencies communities within the region will share stocks of material and also have the ability to borrow from the Orange County Government.