Penn Hills crews busy with salt saving, pothole patching

Patrick Varine
| Monday, Feb. 24, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

In four months, Penn Hills public works crews spread about 8,000 tons of salt on municipal roads, a number which, most other years, would be an entire year's worth.

Since Feb. 3, the municipality has gone through another 1,000 tons.

Salt deliveries this month have been sporadic and suppliers are behind on a 3,000-ton delivery ordered earlier this month, public works director Gerry Nosal said.

By the middle of last week, however, daily temperatures were topping out in the upper 40s and lower 50s, and work crews jumped at the chance to start patching some of the numerous potholes throughout the municipality.

“Crews are sent out into their snow territories to cold-patch potholes, and eventually they'll check every street,” Nosal said.

“Citizen-reported potholes are handed out to crews to be sure that they are handled.”

Residents can call public works at 412-798-2151 to report potholes.

While crews will continue patching potholes while the milder weather holds out, salting is still a critical issue, especially if temperatures are warming up during the day, but dipping back down at night, triggering a thaw-freeze cycle that can create hazardous driving conditions as well as exacerbate existing pothole issues.

Nosal said on the morning of Feb. 19, the air temperature was 41 degrees, but roads were freezing over since the road surfaces were colder than the air.

Municipal manager Moe Rayan said the town's funding for salt and cinders is nearing its budgeted limit: 100 percent of the liquid fuel account ($192,164) has been expended along with 92 percent of operating budget funds ($276,859) dedicated to winter weather control.

Rayan said he is hopeful that the 3,000 tons of salt ordered at the beginning of the month will be enough to make it through the remainder of winter, and maybe leave a little for November and December of 2014, “since we only received approximately 225 tons out of the 3,000 ordered,” he said.

In the Penn Hills School District, Superintendent Thomas Washington said the district's winter-weather supplies are running low as well.

“We're being stretched and so we're being cautious, just like everyone else,” he said.

Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or

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