Applications and Innovations
Getting your share
When agencies pool their salt (and other) resources, everybody wins
By Tina Grady Barbaccia
Everything you need to know about efficient and effective salt storage you learned when you were a kid. Sharing your toys (let’s call them resources) and playing well together will get you more than you will get alone.
The value-added benefits of teamwork have served as the impetus for organizing regional salt storage with multiple municipal, county, and even some state agencies. They have worked together to effectively stock a shared facility, swap services and back each other up.
For years, transportation agencies have struggled to keep enough salt in storage to get them through the winter months, says Bret Hodne, public works director for West Des Moines, Iowa, and past chair for the American Public Works Association (APWA) Winter Maintenance Committee. This, of course, can be very distressing to public works managers when a snow or ice event is “knocking at the door.” Rapid infrastructure growth, inadequately sized storage facilities, budgetary constraints, and increased public expectations are just some of the issues that have left the entities with a lack of recommended salt storage, Hodne says.
Add rough winters into the mix, and it all snowballs into a major headache and winter maintenance woes for agencies.
That’s why several agencies in central Iowa decided to create the Central Iowa Metropolitan Salt Storage Facility. In fall 2007, local agencies began discussions about whether it made sense to construct a regional facility. After determining that all the agencies had difficulty with obtaining rock salt in a manner timely enough to effectively provide the level of service for snow and ice control, the decision was made to construct an agency-owned regional facility.
“There were many obstacles to overcome in the development of the Central Iowa Metropolitan Salt Storage Facility, however the benefits that already have been realized during this past winter have greatly emphasized the value to all of the cities that are involved,” Hodne says. “Having a readily available salt supply throughout the entire winter season has provided the nine agencies that participate in regional storage with the tools they need to meet the demand for services.”
The idea of shared storage isn’t new, but it’s becoming more widespread.
That’s why the City of Fort Collins, Colo., Streets Department, joined forces to develop a combined place to store materials and be more efficient. Since the 1980s, the City of Fort Collins and nearby agencies have operated with regional storage. The agencies rented a facility to store material, pre-split the cost and tracked material through an honor system. That was when just granular product was used. But now there are also liquid anti-icers and deicers, making storage more complex and making use of an honor system more difficult.
“You need to either agree to use the same products or figure out a process to handle two different products. I have known some agencies that have combined for regional facilities and it has ended up like a bad divorce.”
— Larry Schneider,streets superintendent for the City of Fort Collins, Colo., Street Department
In 2006, the City of Fort Collins obtained financing to buy the property that housed the original storage facility — an old sugar beet factory and built a brand new facility on the land after noticing significant corrosion. The city moved the entire operation there. “It’s for everyone in the county and school district,” says Larry Schneider, streets superintendent for the City of Fort Collins Streets Department. “We all take product out of it, and it works great. We haven’t run out of salt or liquid product yet, and I’ve even helped out other close-by cities.”
Even years with rough winters, such as the past few years, are manageable, because the new facility is directly on a train line. “We can rail in 100 tons per car,” points out Schneider, who is a winter maintenance committee member for APWA. “By truck, you might get 25 tons per per load. One rail car brings in what four truck loads would bring in.”
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