EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

January 14, 2008

Storage woes put pinch on salt supply; Road agents keep close watch on dwindling piles

Consecutive snowstorms in December foreshadowed what could be the most treacherous winter New Hampshire has seen in some time.

But winter is something local road agents are used to dealing with, and each seems to have his own technique on how to keep streets safe from snow, sleet and ice.

Their strategies are necessary because storage is in short supply. Coupled with the high demand for road salt statewide, it can make for some restless nights for local officials.

Road Agent Bruce Caillouette's strategy is ordering salt for Danville from three different suppliers in case one or two run out.

Because Danville's highway garage only has room to hold 180 tons, he has to order at least one load during every snowstorm. A load is typically 30 to 35 tons. When the storms come close together, as they did last month, Danville's short supply gets lower and lower.

"I was sweating a bit," Caillouette said. "They weren't getting it to me fast enough."

Caillouette has to keep a good supply, even when snow isn't predicted. Even with high daytime temperatures last week, he said he had to get up every hour at night to see if melted snow and rain had turned to ice on the roads.

"When they say it's going to get cold, you have to put it down where it needs it," Caillouette said.

Plaistow's salt shed also holds just under 200 tons, requiring Road Agent Dan Garlington to order road salt about every storm and a half, he said. His strategy is to stay loyal to Morton Salt and its subcontracted distributor in Newington, he said.

"They have been super," Garlington said. "There might have been two or three storms we might have run out, if they didn't sneak me a load."

Garlington has called for loads in the past and found himself on a list of at least 300 towns. He estimated the company can only make 250 deliveries in a day. But some of the drivers live near Plaistow, and have actually brought 30 or so tons to Garlington's facility on their way home, he said.

Derry has found a way to conquer that issue. They will move to a new facility this week that can hold almost three times as many tons as the old one - 3,500 tons to be exact.

Public Works Director Mike Fowler said since the town uses about 3,800 tons of salt a year, he will be able to store almost an entire supply and not have to compete for shipments with other towns.

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