No snow, but Niles public works still busy
Niles Public Works Superintendent Fred Braun (left) is shown with public works employee Tony Dati (center) and public works manager/snow commander Earl Salther (right) on Friday, Jan. 25, 2013, at the facility. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 1, 2013 2:04AM
The mild winter means using less salt, but may not mean purchasing less salt.
Fred Braun, superintendent of public works for the Village of Niles, said that they have used about 300 or 400 tons of salt so far this winter.
“Typically, we’re in the thousands by this time of year,” said Braun.
Director of Public Works Scott Jochim said they used a good amount of salt during the ice storm on Sunday, Jan. 27, but he wasn’t sure exactly how much was used.
“We were ready to get out the moment the storm hit,” said Jochim, who said they made sure to be extra prepared, since an ice storm is different from a regular snow storm.
Braun said that it’s possible they may have to purchase the estimated 3,000 tons of salt remaining in their contract with Morton Salt even if they don’t need it this winter.
He said the money has already been budgeted for the purchase, so it’s more of a potential storage issue.
“Our biggest concern is what we’re going to do with the salt,” said Braun, about the storage issue they will face if they’re not let out of their minimum purchase. Last year, he said they were not required to purchase the extra salt due to the mild winter, but he is not sure what will happen this year.
Jochim said that there’s still a lot of winter left, but right now the salt dome is full.
Braun said they have not plowed snow at all this winter, and have only been out salting five or six times.
“Last year was very mild,” said Braun. “This year has been even milder.”
The Niles Public Works Department has been moving towards using organic materials to prevent icing on the streets, such as beet juice.
“We’ll probably always use salt to some extent, but we’ve been gradually increasing the amount of other chemicals we’re using,” said Braun. He said the beet juice mixtures are used for de-icing and for anti-icing.
The Niles public works department is using new liquid tanks on the back of their salt trucks that spray a liquid product, called Beet Heat.
“The plan is that it will require less salt,” said Braun. He said the beet juice and beet juice mixtures are cheaper than salt and better for the environment.
Currently, the public works department has five storage tanks for the liquid products, and the ultimate goal is to mix their own products.
And although the public works crew isn’t busy snow plowing this winter, they are definitely keeping busy.
“We’re doing everything from water main breaks to working on the street lights,” said Tony Dati, a full-time public works employee. Dati said they have been busy patching streets, filling potholes and making sewer repairs.
“We’ve had an excessive number of water main breaks, and it hasn’t slowed down in the winter time,” said Braun.
Braun said Niles had more than 20 water main breaks since the first of the year, compared to only seven at this time last year.
“They’ve just been one after another,” said Dati, who has been employed with the Niles Public Works Department for six years.
“Snow-wise, this has definitely been the mildest winter I’ve ever seen,” said Dati. “I have no complaints about it either.”