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County fleet prepares for winter

Cary Ashby • Oct 24, 2019 at 9:00 AM

It was time for the Huron County plows to have their check-ups.

Mechanics from Ashland and Wayne counties performed a detailed inspection of the entire fleet at the main Huron County Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) facility Tuesday. The vehicles included 20 plow trucks, 12 pickup trucks and two front-end loaders.

“We like bringing (mechanics) in from other districts to get a non-biased view of the trucks,” said Kaitlyn Thompson, a public information officer with District 3 of ODOT.  “Every piece of equipment comes through here.”

All 88 counties will have similar inspections over the next three weeks.

“We did Lorain, Medina and Wayne counties last week,” Thompson said.

District 3 covers Ashland, Crawford, Erie, Huron, Lorain, Medina, Richland and Wayne counties.

The annual ODOT Winter Readiness Event helps the departments get ready to fight the ice and snow. 

“I’ve been at ODOT for 27 years and we’ve done it every year,” said John Borsick, Huron County administrator. 

Borsick estimated he has seen snow in the county as early as the end of October. 

“There’s been some in April,” he added.

Borsick talked about the importance of the fleet undergoing detailed inspections.

“This is an important process because when the snow starts to fly, we need to be ready to respond — for the motoring public, for the safety of them, for the school buses, for everybody. … We’re able to go and get out there and get the roads treated so that we’re not getting stuck in the highways and we’re able to get to where we need to go,” he said.

If the mechanics discover any problems with the vehicles, most of the repairs can be done at the Dublin Road facility.

“We might blow a hose on one of the components or whatever and we can get those taken care of. Or when they go through the (inspection) process, if they see a cracked frame on the truck, we can get those things taken care of. … So if we’re down a truck or whatever to get it fixed, we can do that. It’s not going to hurt us as much now as it will in January,” Borsick said. 

Being prepared for the winter means having plenty of road salt.

“Right now, I have 50,000 tons in there,” Borsick said, referring to the massive salt shed. “I can order it as I need it.”

In addition to the salt at the main facility, there are 550 tons in the Bellevue outpost and 500 tons in Plymouth, he said. The Bellevue station covers Erie, Huron, Sandusky and Seneca counties while the salt from Plymouth will go to Huron, Richland and Crawford counties.

Salt cost an average of $57.58 per ton for Northeast Ohio for 2018-19 and went up to $72.13 per ton for the current season, according to ODOT statistics.

Each Huron County plow truck holds 7 to 7 1/2 tons of salt. Borsick said that will cover roughly 32 to 36 miles of roads. 

Locally, ODOT drivers covered slightly more than 105,000 miles to battle the snow and ice last year while using almost 7,660 tons of salt and spending more than 10,700 hours on the road, according to ODOT.

Borsick estimated 1,100 tons of salt was leftover from 2018. He said the plow trucks spread brine, a saltwater mixture, which is added to the salt at the spinner right before it hits the road, so the salt is wet and already starting to work.

“It’s the same salt mixture we we use when we pre-treat the roads,” Borsick said.

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