ShareThis Page

North Hills communities battle to keep up with winter's wrath

| Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, 9:01 p.m.
Bethany Hofstetter | Shaler Journal
A front loader at Shaler Township public works department sits ready to load trucks with the available salt from the township’s salt dome.
Bethany Hofstetter | Shaler Journal
A row of Shaler Township trucks equipped with plows sit ready to clear the next wave of snow to fall.
Dean Bastianini
At the Richland Township salt barn, a truck gets reloaded for another round of wintry weather.
Hampton Township received this delivery of 25 tons of salt last week. This was just one of numerous deliveries last week to try to keep up with the demand for salt to clear township roads.
Hampton Township municipal workers have been putting in a lot of hours to keep the roadways clear.

Whether supplies of road salt will outlast winter is a big unknown for area township managers.

Several local officials reported recent delays in salt shipments and deliveries as unpredictable as the weather.

“We have 2,200 tons (of salt) on order that we have not received yet,” said Chris Lochner, manager of Hampton Township, last week.

“We're currently OK,” Lochner said. “However, if we get a prolonged period of snow ... we're going to have a problem.”

Dean Bastianini, manager of Richland Township, also anticipates a possible salt shortage if storms persist.

“We're fine for now,” Bastianini said. “Obviously there will be some challenges going forward if the kind of weather we got in January continues, which is likely.”

In Shaler Township, road crews, as of last week, already had used 9,000 tons of salt, Manager Tim Rogers said. Shaler typically orders 8,000 tons of salt per winter.

“This is absolutely the worst winter we've seen,” Rogers said.

He and Pine Township assistant manager Scott Anderson said officials are having a difficult time getting deliveries.

“There's so much demand all at once. That's the issue,” Anderson said. “There are only so many trucks that can move around the stuff.”

McClymonds Supply and Transit Co. of Butler County hauls salt ordered by Shaler, Pine, Richland and Hampton townships through a contract negotiated by the North Hills Council of Governments (NHCOG) with the Chicago-based Morton Salt Co. Shaler, Pine, Richland and Hampton also buy salt from the American Rock Salt Co. in Mt. Morris, N.Y., through a state-sponsored purchasing program.

The McClymonds trucking firm used to deliver the Morton salt from supplies in Crescent Township in Allegheny County, and Monaca in Beaver County, NHCOG Executive Director Wayne Roller said.

The trucks now pick up the salt in Ashtabula, Ohio, about 30 miles from the salt mines, Roller said.

“The closest mine where they're mining it is in Fairport, Ohio,” Roller said.

But local officials aren't blaming McClymonds for the recent salt shortages.

“Obviously there are many customers that they have to fill orders for, and they're doing the best they can,” said Lochner. “Frankly, they've been doing a good job of making sure that everybody gets some in the North Hills.”

Bastianini also praised Richland's public works crew — and those in neighboring municipalities — for their role in keeping drivers safe.

“They have lost a lot of sleep, and given up time with their families, even on Christmas, to keep township roads open and safe for travel,” Bastianini said. “Their hard work, over an extended period of harsh weather, demonstrates how important public employees are to the community.”

To offset spotty salt deliveries, Hampton, Shaler and Pine road crews all have scaled back their applications of road salt.

“We are conserving,” said Rogers of Shaler. “We plan to salt less, and do more plowing.”

A cautionary message now welcomes visitors to Shaler's online site: “The Township of Shaler is continuing to experience supply issues relative to the receipt of rock salt to treat the roads.

“The township cautions residents to be particularly careful when traveling township streets,” advises the online notice. “The township will attempt to salt hills, intersections and curves, and will be reducing the salting of flat areas in the township.”

Hampton road crews also have dialed down their trucks' salt outlay.

“We're not going out and doing blanket salt runs like we have been doing,” Lochner said.

“We're doing plowing first, then we're salting. Of course we're still paying special attention to our intersections and our hills.”

In Pine Township, a brine-making machine purchased in 2011 seems to be earning its keep.

The machine makes a solution that Pine trucks spray on road surfaces, along with salt crystals. The brine jump starts the crystals' snow-melting power, and prevents the crystals from rolling off the road.

“It seems to be helping us a lot,” said Tony Barbarino, public works director for Pine.

After many years of managing north suburban Pittsburgh townships, Lochner and Bastianini share a sense of déjà vu about their salt worries.

“This is not the first time we've gone through this,” Lochner said.

“Most of my colleagues, especially in the North Hills, have all been through this before. It's a matter of supply versus demand, and the demand comes all at one time.”

Bastianini also refuses to panic.

“No two years are ever the same in Pittsburgh,” Bastianini said. “We have a lot of weeks of potential winter ahead of us. … As long as salt supplies continue to come in — even at a trickle — we should be OK.”

Deborah Deasy is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. She can be reached at

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer with Trib Total Media and she can be reached at

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.