Workers treat more than 600 miles of roads in Stone County during ice and snow events to help melt ice and allow cars to get traction
Kadee Brosseau Decourley Crews with the Stone County Road and Bridge Department have been working to keep the county’s more than 600 miles of roads clear from recent ice and snow. “We’ve been spoiled the last few years on winter weather. This is the worst our roads have been in a long time,”
Randy Burke said. Burke is the foreman for the central area of Stone County. With ice last week and snow this week, he and other drivers have been busy spreading salt and rock chips on the roads to help melt ice and allow cars to get traction. However, when temperatures get below about 15 or 20 degrees, salt becomes less effective.
“That’s why we had so much trouble getting it to melt,” Burke said. On frigid days, crews have to load their trucks with not only salt and rock chips, but they also add calcium to the mix.
“The calcium acts like a catalyst. It will heat up and once it heats up, it will help the salt do its job,”Burke said. This winter has already proven to be challenging throughout the Ozarks, but Stone County is financially prepared. The road department started the year with supplies it had purchased with money from last year’s budget.
“Our sheds were all full of salt and [rock] chips. That was paid for out of 2020’s budget,” Presiding Commissioner Mark Maples said.
During its meeting on January 21, the county commission approved $75,000 in the 2021 budget for supplies, including salt and rock chips, as well as calcium, to treat the county’s roads.
“It’s been so long since we’ve had a winter like this. The last couple of winters, we really haven’t spent a lot of money on salt and chips. This will cost the county,” Maples said.
However, it is not only the cost of the materials that adds up, but also fuel to keep the work trucks on the roads.
“Where it really affects [the budget] is on your fuel line, more so than the salt and chips,” Maples said. “You really go through a lot of fuel in this kind of weather.”
“In the last few years, fuel costs have not been bad. So, our fuel ledger has been really good, but if we get this [weather] a whole bunch, that could change,” Burke said.
The Road and Bridge Department has three shops throughout the county. The northern shop is located in Hurley, the central shop is in Galena, and the southern shop is in Lampe. Burke said in the central area, eight trucks run per shift during winter weather events.
“They’ve each got a route and, in a perfect world, we can run that route twice per shift,” Burke said. “That’s the goal.”
While the drivers spread salt, rock chips, and calcium on most of the county’s roads twice per shift, they hit high-traffic roads more frequently and they treat them first when winter weather strikes. In the central part of the country, those high-priority roads include Bass Hollow Road and Railey Creek Road near Galena. In the south, Joe Bald Road near Kimberling City is considered a high-priority road.
As winter presses on, road department workers will continue to pre-treat and treat roads when the forecast predicts potentially dangerous conditions.
“I try to stay ahead of it,” Burke said. Meanwhile, county leaders remind drivers to be cautious on slick roads and to be patient as road crews work to keep streets clear from ice and snow.
“It’s pretty dangerous out there for those drivers, it really is. Give them space, give them time,” Maples said.
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