Thursday, March 20, 2003

Spring a relief for Lebanon road crews

By Jill Hanning
Enquirer contributor

LEBANON - Friday is the first day of spring. And probably even more so than anyone else in town, the Streets Department is ready for some good weather.

This winter's snowfall was the heaviest the area has seen since the 1977-78 winter, according to the National Weather Service, but Lebanon says it handled the accumulating piles better than many other small Tristate communities, thanks to a new salt-brine solution used for the first time this year.

The executive director of the Lebanon Chamber of Commerce, Wilma Grace, made a point of expressing the business community's thanks at a recent City Council meeting. "Lebanon is the only town I've been to where you can shop, drive and get around," she said.

The solution, composed of 23 percent salt and 67 percent water, helps the salt stick to the roads and prevents scattering. It is effective to 6 degrees, as opposed to straight salt, which is effective to 20 degrees, said Dan Wilson, superintendent of streets.

The 40-plus inches of snow put the solution, already used in Cincinnati, to the test in Lebanon. But keeping salt in supply ate up road funds.

Service Director Scott Brunka said the city had 1,200 tons of salt in stock when winter began and purchased an additional 2,300 tons throughout the season. Last winter, 1,000 tons were needed, Brunka said.

In total, $113,000 was spent on salt this winter - plus $30,000 in overtime for the street crews - and City Council recently appropriated $50,000 to stock up for the fall, just in case bad weather hits early.

Meanwhile, the city must cope with the potholes left behind. "Even if it had been a good year, we'd be under-budgeted," said City Manager Pat Clements.

Wilson said, "This winter has destroyed our roads. ... We'll just have to bear down and try to repair things until we can put down new asphalt this summer."

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