Towns to get share of state's road salt

With more than 10 storms this season that required public works crews to plow and treat roads, and with more snow predicted to fall this weekend and early next week, some municipal officials are worried about running short of salt.

They complained this week that they were having trouble getting salt deliveries and were forced to use salt sparingly during Thursday's storm. On Friday, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy called on Washington to help with the potential salt shortage, laying out a plan to help the Connecticut cities and towns most in need.

"Last night (Thursday), we requested an emergency disaster declaration from President Obama to address a potential municipal salt shortage. I want to stress 'municipal,'" Malloy said Friday. "If granted, the declaration could aid in the much-needed procurement of salt for the state's municipalities and tribal nations."

A 30,000-ton delivery of salt was expected Friday at New Haven Harbor, Malloy said during a noon press conference, and a second delivery of 45,000 tons should arrive on Feb. 22 instead of Feb. 28, as originally scheduled.

In New London, only about 30 tons of salt were tossed on the city's 63 miles of roads Thursday, about 120 tons less than what's normally used, according to Public Works Director Tim Hanser.

"We made the decision not to pretreat the roads, partly because at this point in the year there's residual salt on the road and partially because we had to be conservative in case we needed salt at the back end of the storm," Hanser said. The city has about 50 tons of salt in stock.

Transportation Commissioner James P. Redeker said Thursday that 30,000 tons covers two to three storms. What the state already had, plus the new delivery, should give the state the ability to respond to four sizable storms, Malloy said.

"We have plenty of salt, municipalities don't; we are taking steps to make sure municipalities have salt," Malloy said.

The governor on Friday also announced that he had submitted a modified emergency disaster declaration to allow an increase in vehicle weight limits on the transportation of salt. The request would permit the Department of Transportation to authorize a temporary gross vehicle weight increase and, in turn, allow the agency to provide expedited emergency assistance to the municipalities most in need of road salt, according to Malloy's statement.

As of Friday, the state had heard from 122 towns regarding their salt supplies. Twenty-two said they needed assistance, and the state began distributing salt to them Friday.

New London Public Works Director Hanser said he requested 300 to 500 tons of salt from the state. He is also awaiting an order for 500 tons of salt that was placed about two weeks ago.

During Thursday's snowstorm - which continued into Friday morning - many public works crews in southeastern Connecticut sparingly spread salt on the streets while keeping watch on their dwindling supplies.

"We are in conservation mode," Public Works Director Joe Bragaw of East Lyme said Friday. "We dialed back usage during this last storm." East Lyme uses about 1,400 tons of salt during a typical winter and has been waiting for two weeks for a 500-ton delivery.

Waterford First Selectman Dan Steward said the town has 200 tons of salt and sand mixture and is awaiting delivery of another 300 tons.

"We have enough to get through the weekend, not sure how much further after that," he said.

Preston First Selectman Robert Congdon, who also serves as the town's public works director, said the town probably needs another 40 tons of salt to get through the winter.

"We've tried to be as conservative as we can, because you can't get it," Congdon said. "We're waiting later in the storm to put it down, so you don't just plow it off the road."

The town's 50-ton storage shed was full Friday with a mixture of sand and salt. Congdon said he borrowed a load from North Stonington and then received a load the following day. Preston has purchased about 140 tons and expects to use it all before spring.

"We've got another storm. We've got the rest of February and March to go," Congdon said.

With its steep hills and narrow winding roads, Norwich can use about 250 tons of salt in one day if a storm is significant enough, Public Works Director Barry Ellison said. His department used 200 tons during Thursday's storm.

He estimated the city has "three storms left" in its stockpile. The city ordered 2,300 tons of salt at the start of the year and has pretty much used that up. The city did receive a load of salt Thursday and another load Friday, he said.

Day staff writers Claire Bessette and Greg Smith contributed to this report.

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