The more snowmelt liquid Janesville can proactively apply to its streets, the more cost effective its winter operations budget will be.
The price of salt has increased 20 percent this winter compared to last year. Operations Superintendent Kamron Nash thinks it’s an issue of supply and demand.
But the proactive chemical mix the city uses—consisting of salt brine and a byproduct of beet processing—can help save the city money and help the environment, she said.
The liquid is applied to hills, curves, bridge decks and main arterial roads ahead of snowstorms. Its intent is to prevent freezing and keep the streets from getting too slippery, she said.
“Applying liquids reduces the amount of salt we have to use. We can apply material and not have to worry about breaking snow and ice bond with pavement,” Nash said.
“It keeps it from happening in the first place. It makes our snowplow operations much faster when we get out there.”
Rock salt is only used reactively. The city wets the salt with brine before applying it to help the salt stick to the pavement and minimize the amount that bounces into gutters, she said.
The city sets a winter preparation deadline of Nov. 1 each year. By that time, it wants to have all plows attached, salters installed and calibrated, and equipment ready for the winter season, she said.
So far, this winter has been quiet. That has helped the city financially withstand the unusually heavy spring workload brought on by late snowstorms.
The winter operations budget runs the calendar year, meaning the city is approaching the end even as the season is just beginning. The city almost nailed its 2018 snow and ice removal budget, coming in only $700 over the $284,600 allocated, Nash said.
Total winter costs could go up if Janesville has to make a big chemical purchase before the end of the year.
The city has also begun tracking data on how much salt it uses on certain roads so it can improve cost efficiency. The technology has been available for some time, but Janesville has only recently implemented it, Nash said.
As for a winter term Janesville residents might be familiar with—snow emergency—it’s a label used nationwide that indicates residents must take some type of action.
The city can declare a snow emergency whenever there’s at least 2 inches of snow. The term isn’t intended to cause alarm but is supposed to remind people to get their cars off the streets so the city can plow, Nash said.