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County Roads Division gears up for winter operations

Last Updated on Nov 13, 2023 at 11:10am | Department of Public Works - Roads Division
by Brenda Ruggiero - The Republican
Even before any mention of snow in the forecast, Garrett County Public Works Roads Division garages are ready to move into winter operations mode when the need arises.
This includes all the stockpiling of anti-skid materials and salt, as well as preparation of snow removal equipment.
Paul Harvey has served as roads division chief for the last eight years, and he does not make predictions about the weather.
An Oshkosh self-propelled snowblower is among the winter fleet at the Garrett County Public Works Roads Division.
“The only thing I can tell you is I know winter will come and winter will go,” he said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen in between.”
Throughout the county, the division maintains about 682 miles of roads. When translating to actual plowing miles, that is nearly 1,400 miles, about the same as traveling to Atlanta and back.
In addition, crews also take care of snow removal at the schools in the northern end of the county (the Garrett County Board of Education takes care of the southern end), refuse sites and some county-owned parking lots.
A loader-mounted snowblower works during a previous winter storm.
“We try to help out wherever we can,” Harvey said.
Garages are based in Oakland, Accident and Grantsville. There are currently about 110 employees in the division, as well as several contractual employees who work full time and are often hired when there are vacancies.
“Everybody’s involved once we go into winter operations,” Harvey said. “We run two shifts — a day shift and a night shift — so it’s all full steam ahead once we’re winter operational. Everybody has a part in it, whether it’s plowing snow or working on the equipment.”
The Oakland area includes 246.05 miles of roads; Accident has 227.97 miles; and Grantsville has 208.48 miles.
Winter operations shifts include 40 routes on day shift and 22 on night shift.
Harvey explained that the average day-shift route covers 35.2 miles and takes approximately two-and-a-half hours to cover. The average night-shift route is 67 miles and takes four to five hours to cover.
A road grader is also a part of the fleet for winter snow removal.
Although the winter operations budget varies from year to year, it is usually around $1.3 million, which includes all the anti-skid, abrasives, parts, equipment repairs and overtime.
“We try to keep up on our equipment as best we can,” Harvey said. “We have a very good maintenance program here.”
The fleet includes 53 single-axle trucks with plows and spreaders, nine road graders with plows and side wings, several loaders and snow blowers, six backhoes, two one-ton trucks with plows and spreaders, and 10 triaxles.
On average, trucks are replaced about every 10 to 12 years.
Two new Mack single-axle trucks were received over the last three years, slightly behind schedule because of the pandemic.
Harvey said the division’s crews do not use pure salt on the roads, but do use a mix of 30 percent salt and 70 percent anti-skid in some areas.
Mechanic Bill Lewis makes sure that one of the newer truck at the Oakland garage is in good working order.
Photo by Brenda Ruggiero
“We don’t use a lot of it because it’s very expensive,” he said. “We use it in higher-traveled areas like around the schools, Sand Flat Road, Glendale Road and New Germany Road, and also around the lake because of the tourists who are not used to the weather.”
The division’s winter inventory usually includes 30,000 tons of anti-skid and approximately 1,200 tons of salt mixture.
Harvey noted that snow fences are no longer used by the division because of the damage that can be caused to farm equipment.
“In some places, if we get enough snow, we build a snow fence out of snow,” he said. “We take a grader and pile it up to make a natural snow fence. It seems to be very effective, and it just melts away.”
Writer Brenda Ruggiero can be reached at 301-501-8393 or by email at [email protected].