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Public Works Crews to Experiment with Road Treatment Alternatives

With average annual snowfall in excess of 100 inches, it’s no surprise to folks who call northern Maine home that snow removal operations are critical to keeping commerce moving and drivers safe all winter long, but all that effort comes at a cost.  In fact, nearly half of the money budgeted by the Town of Fort Fairfield for its Public Works Department is earmarked for winter operations – roughly $400,000 every year! So why then would Public Works Director, Darren Hanson, choose to use more costly salt than sand when clearing the in-town roads after storms this season?

                “We truly are trying to think big picture here,” explained Hanson.  “When we lay down sand, which is mixed with some salt for added melting, we are creating more work for crews in the spring when it comes time to clean-up the streets after the snow melts.  And that sand creates a lot of dust, too.  What we are going to experiment with this year is using only salt after a few storms to see if that not only improves traction for vehicles, but to see if it also reduces the amount of time and money we spend cleaning up the tons of sand we treat the roads with during the course of the season.”

                Hanson says the plan for this year will be to use salt only on in-town roads after a storm in December, January and February.  Hanson says they will factor in other variables, like travel conditions, manpower and more to determine if switching to salt makes sense, and saves cents for the town.

                “We are doing this for a couple reasons; to improve the roads by bringing them back to bare pavement after storms and to conduct a cost-benefit analysis once we are able to calculate any savings that occur when it comes time to clean-up the community after the winter,” said Hanson.  “There are a lot of factors that will play into our decision on how to proceed, but we need to conduct this experiment to better understand the full cost of our snow removal operations, not just the cost of materials – but the manpower needed to treat and re-treat roads, the fuel costs potentially saved by having crews make fewer trips through a neighborhood and, of course, what savings we reap when it comes time to put everything back together in the spring.”

                Residents are encouraged to provide their feedback on the program by contacting Hanson at 472-3884 or emailing dhanson@fortfairfield.org.  “We really want to hear from folks about the positives and negatives they experience traveling throughout the downtown,” said Hanson.  “We will take that feedback and combine it with the other data we collect and determine if this is a program we want to expand or discontinue based on all the information we receive.”

                With winter on our doorstep, Hanson would also like to remind residents about the Town’s snow removal policies, which include no overnight parking on any street, not plowing snow back into the roadway and working to keep mailboxes visible to help reduce the potential for damage when the snow starts piling up.  For more detailed information about the town’s snow removal policy, visit http://www.fortfairfield.org/images/2016/SNOWPLOWINGPOLICIES.pdf