Tallmadge -- The less expensive road salt price the city locked in for this winter will be easier on its budget, but the more severe weather some are anticipating might mean more overtime, offsetting the savings.

Bryan Esler, public service director for the city, said he can't predict the weather, but the city is planning for a rough winter.

"People I've talked to are all saying it's supposed to be a really cold winter with a lot of snow. The last two winters have been fairly mild," he said.

He estimated the city could save $15,000 on road salt with the $39.84 per ton it will pay, which is $4.90 less per ton than last winter. He said this price is great compared to what the city paid during the past few previous seasons.

The city was able to get a lower price because of its membership in the Community University Education Association, an aggregate of municipalities and entities in this area that combined have more bargaining power than any would have on its own. The University of Akron also is in the association.

Each member is required to buy at least 80 percent of its allotment throughout the season. The city's allotment is 3,150 tons so if it buys 80 percent of it, the city would pay $100,396, Esler said. If the city needs its whole allotment, it will pay $125,496.

The money the city saves on road salt typically remains in the general fund and carries over to the next year, Esler said.

The city also is prepared to pay for workers' overtime that accumulates during rough winters.

"We usually estimate for severe weather on the hours for overtime [in the budget]. We never reduce that because you just never know ... ," Esler said, adding if the city underbudgeted and severe weather hits, City Council would have to re-appropriate additional funds.

preparing for Old Man Winter

The city's salt dome at the service department is at capacity with 1,400 tons in storage. More salt is delivered throughout the winter as needed.

The city will plow and salt the main roads -- those that directly lead to and from the Circle -- before the secondary roads -- those that don't connect to the Circle but are still main thoroughfares -- which are Monroe and Thomas roads and Eastwood Avenue.

Crews will tend to residential roads in subdivisions after the main and secondary roads are cleared.

The streets department consists of 14 full-time workers. Most of the workers have 16-hour shifts, sometimes for consecutive days.

The number of snowplows out at once varies with the weather; a light snowstorm that mostly consists of flurries could call for three trucks, while a major snowstorm could demand eight.

This season will be the second that supervisors in the streets department have the ability to monitor and manage the crews on the road with GPS units in each of its nine, 2.5-ton trucks.

"We can see where the trucks are at all times on a map on the computer [or mobile device], where they've been and whether the plows are up or down so we have an excellent way to track what roads are being plowed," Esler said.

The software keeps a history of which roads are plowed and when and helps supervisors better coordinate the crew so they can work together to clear the roads.

"We've got a good program in place, and I think it's probably one of the best around ... We've had success with the plan we've had and have improved it with the GPS units. We expect it to go well this year," Esler said.

He said it's becoming more common for municipalities to use the units in their fleet. The cities of Kent, Akron and Columbus are among those that do.

The cost of each unit was about $250, including installation, Esler said.

The trucks will soon be used for the city's leaf collection program and have been inspected to ensure they're ready for winter. With a change of the bed and hook up of a plow, the trucks can easily be transformed into snowplows in about 20 minutes, he said.

Contact this reporter at 330-541-9428 or hschoenstein@recordpub.com

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