As shown in a recent video screenshot, a city of Shelby snow plow treats Broadway as winter weather moved through the area. Because of the harsh winter, the city is looking to add to its salt inventory.

SHELBY — Even before the latest strong winter storms, the city of Shelby was laying the groundwork for having supplies to deal with the snow, ice and other challenges posed by the harsh weather.

“This salting season is going to exceed the average usage,” John Ensman, Shelby’s municipal utilities director and deputy public service director, told City Council’s Utilities and Streets Committee at its most recent meeting on Feb. 11.

As of that date, Shelby had 400 tons of salt in stock with more ordered.

And as of Feb. 11, Shelby had already used 1,600 tons of road salt this season, Ensman said. That 1,600-ton figure is average annual usage in Shelby and the same as its storage bin capacity.

As a result, the city was planning to purchase more salt, including another 200 tons from Richland County at $39.79 a ton, Ensman said. Shelby had previously ordered 400 tons from the county at that price and 1,200 tons from the Ohio Department of Transportation at $55.96 per ton. That ODOT contract allows Shelby to purchase up to 110% of the tonnage requested, he noted.

“If the budget allows, we would like to continue to purchase salt from the county to replenish the storage bin, but this action will require legislation to purchase the additional purchases after this other 200 tons,” Ensman said in remarks to the committee. “Current purchases are nearing the $25,000 threshold.”

In addition to buying more salt, the city is also preserving its resources.

“We have recently implemented the conservative salting procedure to make sure we have salt available for the rest of the salting season,” Ensman said, adding that usually, this road salting work stops in March as days get longer and warmer.

In his remarks and a written report, Ensman outlined the steps used to conserve salt, including:

* applying to hills as needed

* the Whitney Avenue railroad bridge — a full application on the overpass
* bridges as needed

* secondary roads — intersections only or as needed

* Main Street – intermittent salting

* Gamble Street – intermittent salting

* Safety service areas – as needed

* Schools – as needed

Ensman reported in his presentation that the city of Shelby Service Department crews “have been extremely busy this winter with maintaining the streets and alleys throughout the city.”

“The crews have been out 33 times to salt the streets over the last several months,” he said on Feb. 11. “The many one-inch snow events have plagued the roads with very slippery conditions and have kept the crews out treating the roads with salt.”

Ensman praised crews for their hard work.

“Crews have done an excellent job at keeping the streets in drivable condition,” he said. “Their committed hard work is shared and recognized throughout the city and by other communities.”

Shelby City Councilman and Committee Chairman Nathan Martin offered praise, as well.

“I definitely want to give a kudos to our streets department for keeping our roads clear,” Martin said. “Especially compared to the communities around us. It’s a noticeable difference.”

Martin shared the experience of driving with his 14-year-old daughter as his passenger in the vehicle. “We turned onto a street, and the street was horrible, and she said, 'Oh, we must be out of Shelby because the roads are bad,’” Councilman Martin recalled.

“So it’s not just the people who drive in it who notice,” Martin said. “It’s a lot of other people who notice, too.”

Earlier in discussing additional salt purchases, Martin asked and Ensman agreed that the county price is a pretty good one per ton.

“I think regardless of where we’re at, we should fill up our bins to the 1,600, fill them full with this pricing,” Martin said.

Ensman responded that he agreed. “If the budget allows, we would like to spend as much money as we can to fill the salt bin up as full as we can go," Ensman added.

City of Shelby Project Coordinator Joe Gies indicated that may be contingent on the county allowing Shelby to continue buying at that price.

“They could tell us no because we told them we were only going to buy 400 tons,” Gies said. “We’re already there. But if they keep allowing us, sure, why not?”

Martin said: “I just think it makes a lot of sense…At $40 a ton, it’s a great hedge to the future…I don’t think we’re going to see $40 a ton on a recurring basis year in and year out.”

Shelby Mayor Steve Schag noted that the same fund is shared with smaller paving work outside of the city’s main paving contract.

“I’m right with you, Nathan,” Schag said. “I’m just hoping we can get a lot of salt and still be able to do a good amount of paving, but they do come out of the same fund, at least partially…”

Martin said: “I guess what I’m saying is, for this year, because of those circumstances, I’m supportive of when we go to appropriations, increasing the balance and getting that money there where it needs to be, even it means taking it from general fund or wherever.”

“It doesn’t make sense to spite ourselves for next year just because we didn’t want to make the (purchase) this year,” Martin said. “I share your concern, mayor. We don’t want to do this and then us not be able to do the paving projects we’re trying to do.”

Schag said: “We’ll find a way if we can keep getting it (salt) at that price. I agree, somehow, some way.”

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