Lack of snow gives Public Works chance to catch up

Ilsa Minor | Daily Press Escanaba Department of Public Works Mechanic Tim Jarvis shows off the height of the salt still in the city’s salt dome. According to Public Works Director Kent DuBord, the city has used less than a third of the salt it began the season with. During a typical winter, the city must buy additional salt to make it through the season.

ESCANABA — While a welcome sight for many, the warm weather has impacted few as much it has affected those who spend their winters plowing the streets. In Escanaba, the weather has allowed the city to catch up on projects and get ahead of the summer workload.

Kent DuBord, superintendent of the city’s public works department, isn’t quite sure how much the city has saved due to the lack of snow, largely because the warm weather means the city can tackle other projects that have costs of their own.

“With the lack of snow this year, we’ve been able to start sweep-sweeping sooner. We’ve spent time training employees on our bucket truck, trimming a lot of trees; catching up on a tree list,” he said.

The list of trees in the city that needed trimming was significantly behind. At the beginning of 2023, the trees that were being cut were trees that were put on the list in 2019. Now, the city is current on its trimming goals.

The public works department has also spent time working on its building. The building was remodeled, a shed was replaced, and the DPW crews even did some roofing.

“We’ve done a ton of building maintenance,” said DuBord.

The department also spent a significant amount of time training in its new employees. Four people were hired for the department in 2023, and the warm weather allowed for that new staff to be trained on loaders and other pieces of heavy equipment — ensuring that the staff will be comfortable when the workload of summer hits.

One area where DuBord knows the department has saved money is on truck maintenance. If the plows aren’t running, that equipment isn’t subject to the same amount of wear and tear that would normally occur in the winter. It also means the city’s three mechanics can work on other projects.

“It’s allowed us to get a lot more things prepped for next year that we wouldn’t have been able to do through a normal winter when we’d be typically switching out blades and (dealing with) other breakdowns and issues with equipment,” said DuBord.

The department has even done some prep work for the city parks by sandblasting spring riders, the pieces of playground equipment for young children that have a ridable animal or vehicle on top of a spring. After sandblasting, the department repainted the spring riders so they’ll be ready for children.

If the weather were to turn, the city is in a good position to send out crews. There’s still about 700 tons of road salt in the city’s inventory from the 1,000 tons they started the winter with. For comparison, the city typically needs to order between 600 and 800 tons as a backup as the season progresses.

“We’ve only went through 300 ton where, I mean, some winters, we could be going through anywhere from that 300 ton to 1,500 ton of salt,” said DuBord

DuBord doesn’t see the salt stores changing much. The weather has been warm enough that even if a snow hits the area, it’s likely the snow will melt before plowing is needed.


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