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12/15/2009 - Hamilton Improves Winter Storm Response Procedures

Hamilton Improves Winter Storm Response Procedures

New Practices to Save Taxpayer Dollars, Make Operations More Efficient, Have Less Environmental Impact, and Keep Residents Better Informed


In addition to keeping taxes stable, Hamilton Township Mayor John Bencivengo has been working to improve the services for residents…and the town’s winter storm response procedures are no exception.  After implementing a policy in 2008 that expanded service to Hamilton’s secondary or neighborhood roads, the Mayor and his administration have announced new practices it will use this winter that will save taxpayer dollars, make operations more efficient, have less of an environmental impact and keep residents better informed.

Beginning this winter, Hamilton will start using computerized geographic tracking of its salt spreading and snow plowing, allow residents to track progress online on the Township’s website, improve its anti-icing efforts by using environmentally sustainable agricultural by-products to increase salting efficiencies.  

“While we have worked very hard to achieve cost-savings so we can keep taxes stable for our taxpayers, we have also worked to improve our winter storm response services for the benefit of our entire community,” explains Mayor John Bencivengo.  “Hamilton taxpayers deserve as safe and as drivable road conditions as possible during the winter months.  And that is why we have been working to not only be better prepared for inclement winter weather, but to also improve our services while looking to save on additional costs, whenever possible.”

Geographic Tracking

Hamilton’s Department of Public Works has significantly automated the tracking of salt spreading and snow plowing operations by developing a winter operations module for Hamilton’s Geographic Information System, which provides a graphical display of operations in near-real time.  Not only will Hamilton be able to see a graphical display of specific routes and how long it takes crews to spread or plow each road, but it will also store the information from each winter event and allow the Township to analyze the data.  With this, Mayor Bencivengo and his administration will look at ways in which Hamilton can increase efficiencies and cost-effectiveness. Users of such graphical tracking systems have documented up to 5% increased productivity.  And it is this type of measurement tracking that will continue through Mayor Bencivengo’s HamStat initiative, which will record and analyze data to find ways for the Township to operate more efficiently.              

Residents Can Monitor Results

Township officials will not be the only ones who get to track Hamilton’s salting and plowing operations.  Beginning in the New Year, residents will be able to go online to Hamilton’s website and track progress themselves!   The Township will also use the website to provide information to residents on when they can expect their streets plowed.  And in the future, Mayor Bencivengo hopes to use the same system to provide residents with similar updates to other Township services, such as leaf collection.     

Improving Anti-Icing in an Environmentally-Sustainable Way

The Township’s new anti-icing procedures will allow Hamilton to become more pro-active, rather than reactive.  Recently, Hamilton’s Department of Public Works began using a mixture comprised of 85% brine (liquid salt), 10% agricultural by-products (such as corn and sugar beets) and 5 % calcium or magnesium chloride.  Agricultural by-products naturally lower freezing points to help prevent freezing road conditions and help to prevent corrosion.  They have been used effectively in Midwestern states. This winter, the Township will use beet juice as its agricultural by-product.

The Township’s Anti-icing operations, in combination with its Winter Operation Management Plan, resulted in reduced overtime and a cost savings in the amount of salt needed for winter storm responses last year.  This year’s improvements should result in even greater efficiencies.   

Increasing Salting Efficiencies

Mayor Bencivengo and his team are looking to reduce salt usage through using new technology.  Township supervisors will now use equipment to measure the amount of salt brine and freezing points of salt brine that has already been applied to local roads during a winter weather event.  By using digital refractometers, Hamilton employees can take the “guess work” out of determining the amount of salt that they may need to re-apply to roads after an initial salting.         

Building upon the Policy of “Every Road”

Shortly after taking office in 2008, Mayor Bencivengo expanded the Township’s winter storm response policies to include all secondary (or neighborhood) roads being treated both prior to and, if necessary, following winter precipitation.  This measure was in addition to the routine treatment that primary Township roads already received.

Under the Mayor’s policy, Township crews apply salt brine to all roads prior to winter storms whenever possible and warranted.  Not only does this policy help to prevent freezing conditions on all roads, rather than only a few, but it also helps to melt more snow after snowfall.  This proactive approach helps to save the Township on snow plowing costs.

When conditions are appropriate for snow plowing (which usually is a few inches of snow), secondary (or neighborhood roads) will be treated following the clearing of primary roads.  Under these conditions, Township employees or contractors will clear a center path on neighborhood roads, so that residents have a clear path to reach primary roads.  Workers will continue plowing until all secondary roads have a clear center path, or until “mother nature” takes over and melts the remaining snow.                   

“The way I looked at the issue was simple…every taxpayer, whether they live on a busy, primary road or on a quieter, neighborhood road, pays taxes to the Township.  And every taxpayer deserves to have their roads treated and, if necessary, plowed, whenever possible,” summarizes Mayor Bencivengo.   “And we are continuing to provide this improved service while keeping our taxes stable.”