2013-04-05 / Community News

Treatment change results in savings

Public works reduces salt and sand purchases
By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

Last year the Department of Public Works switched the way it prepared and treated town roadways before and after winter storms by introducing magnesium chloride to Scarborough.

Now, a year later, Mike Shaw, director of the Department of Public Works, said the change has resulted in not only safer roadways, but cost savings as well.

Because of the magnesium chloride, Shaw was able to present a reduction of $20,000 in salt and sand purchases in the $6.33 million budget he has proposed for fiscal year 2014.

“We felt with the pre-treatment program and the ways we handle winter storms, we could back some money out of those items,” he said.

The budget, which makes up 22 percent of municipal spending, represents a $145,693 reduction from the current budget and is $267,250 less than what was approved in fiscal year 2012.

“This reduction is possible due to the cooperative efforts of the Public Works staff. Without their work and support, I wouldn’t be able to present the budget as proposed,” Shaw told members of the Town Council’s finance committee as they reviewed his departmental spending.

Shaw said the department has been able to meet the needs of town residents while reducing spending and streamlining operations, but told the councilors that he worried about continuing to do so, especially when it comes to winter operations.

The snow removal procedures, he said, are worth reexamining. He explained over the course of the last 10 to 12 years, procedures have remained the same, despite the fact that 26 additional miles in the plowing route have been added in that time.

Shaw said the transition to relying more on magnesium chloride is “very much in flux,” but so far the town has seen positive results.

Dick Collins, deputy director of public works, said the magnesium chloride is “less corrosive” than sand and salt is on both the department’s fleet and the vehicles that use Scarborough roads. Collins said the magnesium chloride also saves on overtime costs because the applications last longer.

While the departmental spending is down, the Public Works Department includes $456,500 in capital equipment purchase requests. The requests include $340,000 to replace two 13-year-old plow trucks; $38,500 for a pickup truck and $53,000 for a fuel management system upgrade. Due to budget constraints, the Public Works Department did not replace any equipment last year.

Shaw said the two plow trucks that are proposed for replacement have “cracked frames and have major rust issues.”

The department also requests $25,000 for a crash attenuator, a device to block traffic from moving into a lane that is closed. The device, which collapses on impact, provides better protection for both oncoming traffic and the crew working in the closed traffic lane.

Currently the department uses a dump truck to block off lanes while work is being done. This offers protection for the workers, but not for drivers should they crash into the truck. The crash attenuator would prevent the vehicle from going into oncoming traffic or the work site by stopping it on impact.

“We are opening ourselves to a little bit of liability doing things the way we are doing it,” he said.

Shaw has requested $1.23 million for capital improvement projects, including $503,000 for three miles of road rehabilitation; $400,000 to reconstruct Jasper Street; $205,000 for an engineering study on Pleasant Hill Road and $112,250 on sidewalk improvements on Pine Point Road.

Shaw said in time he would like to fund road rehabilitation costs, which range from a couple hundred thousand dollars to $700,000, into the department budget and not fund it through capital improvement.

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