Front Royal using more salt than expected

A Front Royal Town maintenance truck spreads salt over this portion of South Easterly Street during Thursday morning's snowfall. Front Royal's salt supply is depleting and the maintenance crews are asking for more. Rich Cooley/Daily

Winter storms sapped Front Royal’s salt supply and officials expect more snow this season.

Town Manager Steve Burke and Director of Environmental Services Jimmy Hannigan will ask Town Council on today for $95,000 out of savings to pay for the extra salt used so far and to buy more for the rest of the season.

The town receives funds from the Virginia Department of Transportation for general road maintenance. However, with no extra money coming from the state to help cover the cost to buy more salt, the town needs to dip into its reserves, Burke explained Thursday.

Town crews using about 10 vehicles treat the roads with salt at least twice per snow, Hannigan said Thursday. The town buys salt ahead of the winter season and then as needed at a set price through a contract. The town’s shed holds about 500 tons of salt. The budget usually includes the same amount of money for salt each year but the department can ask for more.

The fiscal 2015 budget allocated enough funds to buy 962 tons of salt at $77.90 per ton, or almost $75,000. But the department has used up most of that money. The town bought about 800 tons of salt from September through January, 234 tons in late January-early February, then 350 tons Feb. 17 for a total of 1,384 – about 421 tons more than allowed in the budget. But officials anticipate the town would need even more salt given that the almanac predicts four storms from now through the end of March.

Historically, the town uses 200-250 tons of salt per snow event, so staff has recommended allocating enough money to buy 800 tons to cover four incidents. By comparison, the town used almost 1,872 tons in fiscal 2014 and 1,066 tons in fiscal 2013.

The money from savings would go to cover the additional salt purchased plus enough to buy up to 800 tons in case the town needs it. Council would need to amend the budget line item for snow removal in the amount of $95,000 to cover the rest of fiscal 2015. Any money not used would go back into the town’s savings, Burke said.

The town uses mostly salt on its roads, with some gravel mixed in for the hilly routes. The department is exploring other pretreatment methods such as brine to use on the town roads, Hannigan said.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com