Towns shake on salt agreement
By Lucia Suarez
STAFF WRITER | November 20,2012
Two neighboring towns have teamed up with the hope of saving money on salt costs this winter.
In a sort of pilot project, Rutland Town and West Rutland will be using homemade salt brine on some of the town’s roads this winter season. The towns hope that by using the brine — essentially a mixture of water and rock salt that is then dissolved and concentrated — they will save some money in the long run.
“We are trying to trim our costs as best we can,” said Byron Hathaway, road commissioner in Rutland Town. “It will be one truck, one small route to gather some data and go from there.”
Town officials in West Rutland formally signed the agreement recently and the Rutland Town Select Board is expected to sign the agreement tonight. The deal is set to expire April 15, at which point, both towns will determine the project’s success and whether to renew for another year.
“It’s a great opportunity to join resources,” said Mary Ann Goulette, town manger in West Rutland. “It’s (imperative) that towns work together and share resources.”
Hathaway, who has researched the use of salt brine in Vermont and other states for several years, said the towns teamed up after he was approached by West Rutland’s road foreman Frank Woolf about using salt brine. He said town officials in both towns are interested in the project.
Hathaway and Woolf built a brine maker — several tanks for the water, salt and concentrated brine with a pumping system — and have set up shop at the West Rutland garage, which has enough storage space and running water. The brine maker cost about $3,000 from each town.
There, they will be concentrating the rock salt and water mixture until it is at 30 percent concentration, Hathaway said. More than 3,000 gallons of salt brine has already been made.
“The savings come in because rock salt bounces around ... and moves to edges of the road,” Hathaway said. “Liquids are more accurate to spread.”
He added, “We are not going to replace rock salt. We can make rock salt better.”
According to Goulette, they have projected about a 20 percent to 30 percent savings in the West Rutland’s $60,000 salt budget if the project goes well.
“It will be a lot of trial and error,” she said. “Our Select Board thought it was a good idea. Anytime we can share resources (with other towns) it is beneficial.”
Hathaway said his department expects to break even on the initial cost investment of $3,000 this year, but will eventually save about 10 percent of the town’s salt budget, if they continue the project next winter.
This will be the first time salt brine is used by both towns. The state Agency of Transportation has been testing the use of salt brine for several years and recently moved to using it on all state roads.