Mild winter has been a boon to cities

By: Kevin Bunch | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published February 1, 2016

 Unused road salt is piled high in Roseville’s salt barn Jan. 28. The mild winter has left the city using far less salt than in a usual winter.

Unused road salt is piled high in Roseville’s salt barn Jan. 28. The mild winter has left the city using far less salt than in a usual winter.


A drier and milder winter than usual has been beneficial to the public services departments in Roseville and Eastpointe, which typically spend December through March battling snowfall, icy roads, water main breaks and potholes.

This year so far has not required as much salt, according to the department heads in both cities, which has allowed crews to focus on dealing with potholes and occasional icy patches.

Roseville Department of Public Services Director Thomas Aiuto said that as of Jan. 26, the city had used about 800 tons of salt in January. That stands in contrast to 1,000 tons used in January 2015, and 1,600 tons used in January 2014.

“We’re down from last year, and we’re considerably down from two years ago, when we had the record snowfall,” Aiuto said. “That’s less salt I’ll have to buy for next year.”

The city should not need to buy any additional salt supplies for this winter, as long as the weather stays relatively mild, he added. Roseville’s salt barn holds about 3,000 tons.

With less snow, plowing has been greatly reduced as well, Aiuto said, as crews instead have focused on putting salt down on patches of ice when they form. Temperatures also have not fallen so low that the salt loses its effectiveness, he added.

In Eastpointe, Department of Public Works Director Mary Van Haaren said the city has used about 100 tons of salt this winter season, which is about 15 percent of how much was used last year at this time. In total, she said the city still has between 600 and 700 tons in the salt barn and another 2,000 tons reserved off-site for the winter season.

“We haven’t had any problems keeping up with the plowing and the salting and the work that’s been necessary,” Van Haaren said. “There are much (fewer) water main breaks than usual, which is both attributable to the weather, plus a good number of our infrastructure is getting replaced. The worst of the lines (have been replaced), so they’re not causing the kinds of the problems we’ve had in the past.”

The city also has installed a pressure relief valve, or PRV, at Eight Mile and Gratiot, where the Eastpointe water main connects to Detroit’s system. The PRV allows the city to adjust the pressure so that water mains do not break as often in the winter months, Van Haaren said.

She did not anticipate the city needing to replenish its salt barn, as long as February and March continue to be mild months.

As an added benefit, Van Haaren said, there have been fewer weather-related crashes and fewer police calls to deal with after-hours ice patches this season — about three or four compared to 30 calls for such ice patches in a typical season by this time. This has saved wear and tear on both city vehicles and the roads.

Aiuto said that Roseville crews have been able to focus on finding and patching potholes on a daily basis instead of contending with snowplowing.

“The potholes are popping,” Aiuto said. “But we have crews out there daily.”

Van Haaren said that even the potholes have not been as numerous as in more typical years, as there has been less slushy snow and moisture melting and refreezing. Crews in Eastpointe have been vigilant in patching any potholes they discover before they can become a bigger problem, she said.

Salt prices were hiked last year to $58.79 a ton, Roseville Department of Public Services Assistant Director Jeff Schmidt told the Eastsider in October. This was an increase of $10.78 over the previous year, he said.

Cold patch pricing — for filling potholes — remained the same as it was in 2014, holding steady at $108 a ton.