With snow, ice and sleet predicted throughout the week, the Harrison County Road Department is gearing up for one long work week.
“Today we’re working to gear up for tonight,” road department supervisor James McCarty said Monday afternoon.
McCarty said road department workers were out treating county roads from 6 p.m. Sunday evening until 1 a.m. Monday morning.
“When it gets to two inches, we come in,” said McCarty. “It doesn’t do us any good to put ‘em down before that.”
However, the road department’s work begins before the snow. A new salt brine pre-treatment is put on county roads four to five days before winter weather hits.
“It keeps it from sticking to the blacktop,” said McCarty. “It’s good for a small snow.”
The salt brine is applied when the temperature is above 35 degrees.
Along with the addition of pre-treating roads, the department also added an additional route to their work list, totaling nine snow routes for 370 miles of maintained roads, and 13 road department employees.
A combination of 70 percent rock and 30 percent salt is dispersed on hills, curves and intersections of county roads. Pure salt is dropped on county subdivision roads.
“We’re not putting anything on the straight stretches,” said McCarty. “...There’s no way to have 370 miles of road and keep ‘em all spotless.”
Harrison County Judge Executive Alex Barnett said motorists would need to slow down when traveling in bad weather, especially on the straight stretches of road that weren’t treated.
“That’s our number one goal - to make the roads safe for kids going to school and people going to work,” he said.
Dealing with Mother Nature, Barnett said, came at a heavy price.
“All of this costs the county and taxpayers quite a bit of money,” said Barnett.
Under a set contract, the county buys salt at $58.50 a ton. Two hundred tons is kept on hand at the road department’s facility on Connersville Pike.
Barnett said that since the county agreed to the salt contract in the summer, the price of salt has risen to $200 a ton.
“All it does is cost us money,” said McCarty about preparing and treating roads.
McCarty said it takes the road department nine hours to scrape and salt all the county roads.
And when trucks come back in after their routes, workers have to replace parts and check the trucks in preparation for the next run of the route.
“We have to get them ready to go again,” McCarty said.
Barnett said he keeps in contact with the National Weather Service for weather updates.
“You’re right in the middle of the bad stuff,” Barnett said NWS staff told him Monday.
Once the sheriff’s department informs dispatch of icy/snowy roads, Barnett said he confers with McCarty about sending out workers to treat the roads.
“It’s a touchy call sometimes,” said Barnett.
With instructions from Barnett, McCarty said he contacts all the road department workers to begin their routes.
And so when everyone else goes home to escape the winter weather, the Harrison County Road Department heads out.
Needless to say, McCarty said he hates snow and ice.
“I don’t like it for any reason whatsoever,” he said.