The Ferndale salt barn, seen here in 2018, hasn’t been used much this year. Local public works directors say there could be savings for their departments if the lack of heavy snowfall continues, as they wouldn’t have to use as much salt this season.

The Ferndale salt barn, seen here in 2018, hasn’t been used much this year. Local public works directors say there could be savings for their departments if the lack of heavy snowfall continues, as they wouldn’t have to use as much salt this season.

File photo by Deb Jacuqes


Lack of snow could result in savings for local departments of public works

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published January 7, 2020

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FERNDALE/BERKLEY — Southeastern Michigan has had a small amount of snow this winter, which, depending on whom one talks to, can be treated as a positive or negative.

For municipalities that have to tend to their roads by salting and clearing them, life might be a little easier. It also might help cities save a bit of money in the long run.

Ferndale Director of Public Works Carlos Kennedy believes that his salt trucks have only been sent out on two runs so far this season, though if the upcoming weather forecast is correct, he sees that changing in January.

As the city buys its salt through the state of Michigan, Kennedy usually places an order for salt in either March or April for the following winter.

“It’s hard to do because you don’t know what you’re going to get next year,” he said. “We’ve already ordered and have in place what we’re going to use this year. We’ve got 3,000 tons roughly on hand in the salt mine right now. We have another 3,000 tons available to us throughout the winter. We shouldn’t run out. That’s quite a bit of salt for a city this size.”

Where the savings come in, Kennedy said, is if the current trend sticks and Ferndale doesn’t have to use as much salt, then he won’t have to place a bigger order, come March.

“Whatever’s left over at the end of the winter months, that’s less we have to order for next year,” he said.

“We save on not having to spend that money on manpower going out on overtime, fuel, salt, brine, and we can use that later on in the season,” he said.

Berkley Department of Public Works Director Derrick Schueller agreed on the salt usage potentially saving a bit of cash. He said that the city tries to refill its salt dome prior to the winter season. Berkley’s salt dome also covers the salt for the city of Huntington Woods, which purchases the salt and picks it up from its neighbor.

“Based on some years, we are behind a little bit, as far as how much salt is probably being used, but that can catch up pretty quickly, too, depending on what happens,” he said. “Right now, I don’t think you’re realizing any savings, but obviously, if it continued, I wouldn’t have to put as much of it back in towards the end to get us back to square one.”

With the weather, Schueller said it’s not so much about the snow falling, per se, as it is the snow melting and freezing.

“It’s not necessarily directly tied to snowfall,” he said. “It’s more ... those freeze-thaw cycles where you start to get a little bit nervous, but thus far, we’ve been pretty lucky because for the most part, when we do get a little bit of snow, it seems to be melting fairly quickly and it’s not a big issue for us.”

For whenever the snow does come, Kennedy said his team is more than prepared with its manpower, trucks, equipment and de-icing materials.

“You’re expecting the worst, and you get the most mildest winter possible,” he joked. “I doubt that’ll happen, but if it does, you won’t hear any complaints out of me.”

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