City salt supplies prepared for winter


Jason Howell

Eastern groundskeeper Greg “Joe Jones” Lee uses a torch to modify a bracket on a salt distributor on Thursday in the facilities building. Lee, who has worked at Eastern for 20 years, said he enjoys all the different projects he is able to work on as a part of the grounds crew. “I have the best job on campus,” Lee said. “I just love the variety.”

Jack Cruikshank, Staff Reporter

After experiencing shortages of salt/icemelt used to keep roads and sidewalks free of ice, both the city of Charleston as well as Eastern’s groundskeepers have been preparing for a winter as harsh as last year’s.

Ron Croy, a maintenance equipment operator within the grounds operations department, said the campus grounds crew will be prepared for this winter.

“People have to understand we are out in the weather,” Croy said. “We cannot be everywhere at once; we have 18 people for 320 acres – with 10 miles of sidewalk and 42 acres of sidewalk.”

For the city of Charleston, Curt Buescher, the director of public works, said the city has been preparing for a “harsh winter.”

Buescher said the city is prepared for this year’s weather after almost running out of salt last winter season.

“When we still had salt [toward the end of last winter], we realized that even though we had a contracted amount ordered through the State of Illinois bidding process, we were not going to get the rest of our salt until IDOT and the larger cities in Illinois had gotten their salt,” Buescher said.

After having to mix sand and salt last year, the Charleston Public Works Department has prepared by currently stockpiling 750 tons of salt for this year.

Buescher as well as Croy stressed how the salt does not work below approximately 15 degrees. Between 15 and 0, a mixture of sand and salt works best, while only sand can be used at any temperatures below 0 degrees.

“We use sand to give added traction – you’ll see that in the parking lots – it’s cheaper, but it is not as effective,” Croy said. “At least it will give you some traction when it’s so cold and the ice is frozen so hard the icemelt doesn’t work.”

For Eastern, cost plays an important factor in the use of salt.

Paul McCann, the interim vice president for business affairs, said Eastern tries to use as little salt as possible, while, at times, using sand as a cheaper substitute.

McCann said Eastern uses salt “around the doors and where ice has accumulated on the walks.”

For the winter of 2013-2014, the total cost of salt was $23,000, which equated to 145,000 pounds of salt purchased in 50-pound bags.

Croy said that although he understands when students have difficulties with snow and ice around campus, no one is to blame in the situation.

“We are doing our best; we try to make things as safe as possible,” Croy said. “Maybe we can’t get it all off, but we try to have walk paths cleared within reason.”

Croy said that ultimately students should not be worried about this winter weather.

“We are ready for a winter above average,” Croy said. “We’ve got as much [salt] as we had last year so we should be in decent shape.”


Jack Cruikshank can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].