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Area cities ready for winter's worst

by Jim Fisher

STAFF WRITER

CLARKSBURG -- Newspaper reports from at least one neighboring state have indicated salt supplies may be getting scarce, causing some cities to be lacking in winter preparations.

Officials from two local cities, however, say they are ready and able to combat whatever Mother Nature may throw their way this winter.

With unseasonably high temperatures lately, winter seems almost inconceivable. But city officials know that waiting until the snow begins to flurry is too late to wait to prepare.

"As for the salt, we have all our bins topped off and we're full up," said Dan Ferrell, director of public works and public utilities for Bridgeport. "We have contracts with two different suppliers, and I feel comfortable the suppliers can meet the demand."

Ferrell said the city's salt spreaders have been checked and are ready to be loaded onto trucks.

"We've got five spreaders and five routes," he said. "We're ready to go."

Clarksburg City Manager Tom Vidovich, while a little more cautious than Ferrell, also said city workers are ready to tackle snow and ice.

Vidovich said winter preparation is like any other unknown that city officials must prepare for -- it's not an exact science.

"Obviously, the severity of the winter will dictate the predicament you find yourself in," he said. "I don't care where you are, what city or what part of the country, you always run the risk of buying too much salt and having a mild winter or buying not enough salt and having a harsh winter."

Vidovich and Ferrell both said the trick is relying on experienced city workers and trying to shoot for the middle scenario.

Last winter took its toll on material supplies, manpower and equipment, Ferrell said. Instead of one or two big snowstorms, last winter was punctuated by several small snows and a series of freezes, all of which combined to make roads icy and dangerous.

"We didn't miss a beat (last winter), and that's what we'll do this year," he said.

There have been reports of rising salt prices across the country, but Vidovich said salt is like any other commodity in that fluctuations are expected. The high temperatures coming into November probably mean that not as much salt is being used, even in traditionally colder states where winter can start earlier. However, one big snowstorm in New England or the northern Midwest can deplete supplies and drive prices up, Vidovich said.

Staff writer Jim Fisher can be reached at 626-1446 or by e-mail at jfisher@exponent-telegram.com

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