By Sarah Pridgeon
The Council has agreed to waive the water bill from WYDOT’s salt brine facility in return for services and materials regularly donated to the city. Speaking at this month’s regular meeting of the Sundance City Council, Larry Schommer, Public Works Director, explained that the city gets far more from WYDOT than the $135 per month, for five months of the year, that it will cost for the water.
“There are two advantages for the city of doing this,” Schommer said. “It’s beneficial to us to maintain the good working relationship we have with WYDOT, and they’re also at the end of the line and using five to ten gallons at a time, so it helps keep our water line flushed.”
Brad Marchant of WYDOT explained to the council that the department “pretty much eats the cost of the sand salt” and provides ice melt to the city on donation. As pointed out by Mayor Paul Brooks, WYDOT aid also negates the need for the city to stock aggregate.
In response to complaints from residents about ice melt damaging cars, relayed by Council Member Larry Goodson, Marchant informed that council that it causes minimal corrosion. It leaves a residue that helps prevent ice from bonding with the road, which means only small quantities are required.
“WYDOT is leaning more to the chemical and to using it smartly,” continued Marchant. “If you’re worried about rusting, I wouldn’t drive to South Dakota, they use far more there. We’re shooting a little before, a little during and a little after the snow falls. We’re hopefully also getting geomelt next year, which works down to 20 degrees below. We’ll be able to use that even in a heavy storm.”
“We’ve had a lot of rain this year, which means a lot of ice,” Schommer added. “I would rather someone have to wash their car than somebody gets run over. I’ll use everything I have to cut the ice down.”
Schommer later expanded on the issues facing the snow removal team this year: a particularly tough season thanks to the combination of rain and snow. “Any time it rains in January is not a good thing,” he said. “I’d rather face three feet of snow than an inch of rain.”
The biggest challenge the team faces is caused by the design of the roads in town and the curb configuration, he explained. The road is approximately two inches higher than the curb, which leaves an area the truck can’t get to.
“It would help to keep those areas free of ice if people could make sure not to cover the drains when removing snow. If the snow is pushed onto lawns or further out into the road, away from the valley part, it wouldn’t be able to melt and then freeze, creating ice and preventing the water from draining.”
Ice melt and salt brine, he went on, softens the snow pack. As cars drive across it, they push it down, softening the pack further; although this can cause slush to splash onto the cars, the team needs to leave it in place until it has finished working.
The move from salt sand to chemical solutions is largely due to storage issues and to Department of Environmental Quality regulations about run-off, said Schommer. These affect the city because of its working relationship with WYDOT, without whom Sundance would be unable to bear the cost of ice removal.
“Snow removal is a judgment call,” Schommer continued. “If we get two inches of fluffy snow that won’t pack, it’s easier on our streets to let it go. If it’s three inches of slush that’s going to freeze and create more problems, we’ll plow it off. The one thing I feel is not a judgment call is the materials we use: if it’s ice, I’ll use whatever I need to use to make the roads safe for the people who walk them.”
Schommer encourages citizens experiencing issues with ice and snow removal to speak to him directly or address the council at its regular monthly meetings. “That’ll help me answer more easily and tackle the problems directly,” he concluded.