By Lauren Wanko
Salt trucks hit the streets of Belmar early this morning and the Department of Public Works sprays the roadways with brine in anticipation of snow.
“This year has been much better than last year,” said Belmar DPW Assistant Superintendent John Maguire.
Maguire hopes last season’s wicked winter weather doesn’t make a comeback. Throughout the state salt supplies in 2014 dwindled to dangerously low levels, leaving many domes — like Belmar’s — empty at some point during the season.
“As soon as we got it in, it went back up onto the roads,” Maguire said. “Now it’s piling up.”
So far the Belmar DPW used 125 tons of salt — 75 percent less compared to this time last year. The team got another shipment — about 100 tons. They hope that lasts through the end of February but that all depends on Mother Nature.
Statewide last winter, the Department of Transportation spent more than $128 million during the season and used 496,418 tons of salt. So far this year the agency’s spent more than $13 million and has gone through 63,551 tons of salt.
“We always budget a certain amount in the winter for sand, brining, for plowing,” said Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty.
Belmar allocates $50,000 of their budget to cover DPW’s winter weather work. But last year the borough spent $88,000.
“We rather estimate high and have a bit of a surplus. Last year because of how busy we were, we had a deficit and had to take money from the DPW. What we’re hoping for this year we will have a surplus and be able to add back to the DPW, maybe do some other projects in town,” Doherty said.
In shore communities, snow and ice aren’t the only concerns. Flooding can wreck havoc along the coast.
“In preparation for winter, we always build up sand dunes in the southern part of town where the beach is more narrow,” said Doherty.
Snow fencing is installed along the entire beach too.
“We put that up because it knocks the sand down and keeps it from accumulating on the street and going on the boardwalk,” Maguire said.
The DPW’s dunes and equipment may be put to test this weekend. A coastal storm’s expected to hit Saturday, which could bring significant snow and rain to the region, along with possible tidal flooding.