Snow Plow

The city of Washington, like many other entities, is low on salt due to the amount of snow that has fallen in the area.

But there is enough to make it through the final weeks of winter, according to John Nilges, director of public services.

“We are low on salt — obviously this winter has taken a toll on our salt reserves,” he told The Missourian. “We do have enough to get through winter.”

During Monday’s Washington City Council meeting, Councilman Steve Sullentrup questioned if cinders are being used on city streets.

In 2016 the city stopped using the material after complaints by residents. 

Tony Bonastia, street superintendent, noted that the remaining salt at the city’s salt dome is mixed with cinders dating back to prior to 2016.

“That is just what is left over,” Nilges said. It is in the back of the salt dome and this is a situation of necessity — it is not that we wanted to, but it is just necessary.

“It is not a change of policy,” he added.

According to Nilges, the cinders are helpful on hills and when there is a refreeze of wet roads.

“Cinders work very well for traction when there is a refreeze on hills,” he said. “The general public did not like cinders so we are trying to limit the amount we use. This is not a 100 percent cinder situation.”

The city tapped into salt reserves for the first time in four to five years.

Next Year

Nilges noted that this spring and summer the city will work “diligently” to refill the city’s salt stock.

Typically the city will pool with Franklin County and municipalities to purchase salt in bulk to keep costs low. 

According to Nilges, that may not be the case this year depending on how and when the county begins that process.

“We strive to have our salt supplies full, which it has been, especially over the past couple of winters. Essentially we are down to minimal amounts so we will have to budget a pretty substantial amount — more than previously to replenish our supply.”

Busy Snow Year

Snow removal operations have run smoothly this year, Nilges said.

“Overall I feel it has been relatively smooth,” he added. “We can always do better and always try to do better.”

He explained that he and Bonastia watch the weather conditions continuously when precipitation is predicted.

Bonastia then makes the call on when to pretreat, or when to plan for only plowing.

“It kind of depends on the snow situation, the temperatures and weather conditions,” Nilges stated. “If there is going to be rain that turns to ice, it is difficult to pretreat because the rain will wash away the salt.

“If it is a dry snow we will pretreat heavily because that is harder to push.”

The biggest hurdle the crews must overcome is cars parked on the streets. The goal is to keep the roads open, and not block driveways but if cars are parked in the streets that sometimes is difficult to do.

“When we had 10-12 inches it was a pretty big issue,” Nilges said. 

He said the city has made a big push to ask residents to not park in the streets while crews plow, if that is possible.

Working Overtime

Nilges said city staff keeps a close eye on overtime for crews that plow the streets, but there is no avoiding it in many cases. 

And after the snow is gone, snowplows have left streets with potholes. 

“The same guy who drives the snowplow is the same guy fixing potholes,” he said.

If residents encounter a pothole, there is a chance that the city has not had the manpower to fill it.

Nilges added the work will be done but asked for patience.