RANDOLPH,NJ- Randolph has seen warmer days. This past week the town has been through a Monday snow storm that brought eight to nine inches of snow and a Wednesday freezing rain shower that brought black ice to the streets.
"Monday was all snow. When it changes to freezing rain and ice that's the bad one," said Department of Public Works Director, Tom Spring. "The problem is you can't plow ice, so you have to melt it."
Considering there is a salt shortage, melting the ice is hard to do. The Department of Public Works also runs a county co-operation with 260 members from Morris, Sussex, Bergen, Ocean County and all over. This year the co-op was split between two salt venders, which are basically the only two salt venders on the market. Morris County got a company called Atlantic Salt and other counties have a company called International Salt.
At the beginning of the week, Spring was told by the co-op administrator that International Salt reported they were out of salt. Atlantic Salt claimed that they had enough salt for the rest of the week and after the week's end they were going to be out as well.
"The problem with Atlantic Salt is that they don't have enough trucks to deliver. So we're behind on deliveries of salt because they couldn't get it to us," said Spring.
Spring ordered a thousand tons of salt two weeks ago and has only received 740 tons of the thousand. He is still missing 260 tons. Spring put an order in on Monday for another thousand tons and does not expect to receive it anytime soon. Usually, a salt delivery should take no more than three days.
"We've had a lot of mild winters," said Spring. "Probably four or five in a row. We had some bad storms here and there but never back to back like we've been having now, so their supply ran out before they thought to order some more. Everyone is having trouble."
Randolph is broken down into three sections: red roads, yellow roads and subdivisions. Red roads are the main roads like Millbrook Ave. and Sussex Tpke. Yellow roads are hilly roads that also get a large amount of traffic. Subdivisions are the streets with residential homes. The department has gone into a conservative mode due to the salt shortage and has tried to concentrate on red and yellow roads before subdivisions.
"We're not salting subdivisions," said Spring. "We can't. We'll run out. We usually do take care of our roads very very well."
Regardless of the salt shortage, the department has still been doing their pretreatment to the roads before a snow storm or freezing rain event comes in. The treatment is a salt solution that keeps the bond of the snow and road from forming.
A typical work day for plowers will start from 7 a.m. and will not end until 3:30 p.m. the next day possibly. If an event is expected to happen earlier than 7 a.m., truckers will be out before the event starts. However, all workers are required to take breaks that allow them to rest at least 4 hours if possible.
"The days don't end," said Spring. "Breaks are whenever you can get them but the guys are pretty good. I'm surprised how well they bounce back."
A big problem truckers are coming across are home owner's mailboxes in what is called the right of way, which is an area of the street that is owned by the town. It can vary from 11 feet to a smaller number depending on the size of the road. This area is where the truckers can put the snow.
Owners have their mailboxes on the road's right of way and when a pile of snow gets high the snow rolling off the top pushes the mailboxes and breaks them.
"We can't reimburse mailboxes because we're putting the snow where it belongs in our right of way," Spring said. "We don't hit mailboxes with our plows. It's the snow. Wet heavy snow is worse than throwing a basketball or baseball against the mailbox. It's like hitting it with a baseball bat."
The town has a policy that the department does not fix mailboxes that are damaged due to normal plowing operations. Although, if a driver did something wrong where he lost control of the vehicle, ran off the road and took a mailbox down then the department would replace it.
However, right now the larger concern is trying to have the department work on any remaining hazardous road conditions to make them safe for the public, and getting ready for whatever Mother Nature throws our way next.