Commonwealth Journal

News Live

February 3, 2014

Clearing streets is 'snow' joke for city

Somerset —

There’s no business like snow business.
That’s never truer than when working for a road department, and this winter, as the weather outside has been frightful, business has been good — or at least busy.
Local agencies have spent a lot of time on local thoroughfares cleaning off the snow and salting them so they’re safe to drive — and have spent a lot of money as well.
“We’ve been extremely busy,” said David Hargis, street foreman for the City of Somerset. “My guys have stepped up and performed beautifully. We’ve been able to keep the streets clean, and keep transportation moving. I’m very proud of my guys.”
The total cost of keeping roads clear is high. Hargis noted that about $23,700 has been spent this winter on this task, above and beyond normal maintenance and personnel costs. That includes man hours, fuel costs, salt, and all other related factors.
Specifically, salt is in high demand. Hargis said that the city’s street department has used about 75 tons of salt — which is distributed on roads to decrease slickness in snowy and icy weather — since January 1. That has cost around $7,500.
Making the situation pricier is the fact that most of the U.S. has undergone a wicked winter as well, with even larger storms than Somerset has gotten further north in Kentucky, as well as in the midwestern and east coast states surrounding the Commonwealth. 
“Salt has been very difficult to find over the last month,” said Hargis. “Everybody all over the nation has been looking for it.”
When demand suddenly outpaces supply, basic economics dictates that prices will go up — and that’s exactly what has happened.
“(The cost of road salt) has almost doubled what it was back in the fall, per ton,” said Hargis. “It’s about $160 a ton right now.”

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