Starke County Highway Department Reports Winter Savings

 The relatively mild winter has resulted in considerable savings for the Starke County Highway Department. The nine winter events recorded last month cost slightly more than $50,000, according to information highway superintendent Rik Ritzler shared with the county commissioners this week. That figure includes money spent on diesel fuel, salt, sand and employee overtime. Last January the county spent more than $86,000, and two years ago January winter operations cost more than $130,000. The savings will be invested in road maintenance.

Ritzler says the highway department is also taking a more scientific approach to treating pavement. The successful use of salt is related to the timing and type of event and the pavement temperature. The Starke County Highway Department uses pavement sensors and prioritizes plow and salt/sand routes to emphasize bus routes and main roads to businesses. Employees have also gotten more training as to how, when and where materials should be applied.

Ritzler says the highway department applied a salt brine solution to county roadways for the first time in their history on Jan. 21st. It’s a solution that’s used to prevent the formation of ice. A small amount of brine was applied to three sections of roadway to test its effectiveness. Ritzler says the brined roads were easier to clear to bare pavement than untreated roads of a similar type. The operation will be expanded to include Range Road between State Roads 8 and 10 and Toto Road from 800 West to 700 East the next time conditions are favorable for brine application. Ritzler also hopes to apply the solution around Bass and Koontz Lakes. He says resources will not allow the application of brine to all county roads. However he hopes it will decrease the potential for accidents on heavily traveled areas.