Mild winter a less expensive one for many communities

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When kids are on bikes instead of on sleds and the heavy coats are left at home, you know it has been an unusual winter.

It has been nothing like what Randy Hill ever expected. Hill is in charge of Public Works in Muscatine, keeping the streets clear when it snows and a storage container full of salt.

"Certainly you don't want to run out," said Hill. "So you fill your storage areas to the capacity that you can."

Hill ordered the typical two barge loads of salt last year that the city splits with Muscatine County. Of the 3-thousand tons they bought, only a quarter of it has come out of storage.

"It's unpredictable, basically," he said. "If we had done that, we wouldn't have ordered any salt for this year."

A snow free winter is a less expensive one. Fewer crews on the roads mean less money on overtime. Muscatine saved about 20-thousand dollars this year just on labor. Next year they'll buy one less barge load of salt, 90-thousand dollar savings. Now the road tax money that usually pays for salt can go somewhere else.

"We'll now be able to use our savings to put towards streets or repairs," said Hill.

For now, the salt will stay dry in storage. Next year they might need all of it.