Winter was mild, not wild, from public works perspective

The first snow flurry of the fall came on Oct. 27, getting many mentally prepared for the winter that would come, but the season turned out to be more mild than wild, according to the Wilton Public Works Department.

Some predictions were for an above-normal level of snow, but Public Works Director Tom Thurkettle summed up the season as being relatively light.

“There’s been a few winters where basically by the middle of January we were out of the whole budget,” said Thurkettle, who said that wasn’t the case this past winter.

The trucks used 2,000 tons of salt and nearly 2,000 tons of sand, he said.

“We have some left over for next season,” he said, and a check of the storage barn showed quite a mountain of salt remaining.

Thurkettle said two seasons ago that a normal winter’s worth of salt runs the town around $190,000, while sand comes in around $60,000.

There are almost 20 “plow routes” in town that run about 10 miles each — plowing both directions means trucks have to travel double that length per leg. The northern section of town often takes the longest because trucks have to refill salt and sand supplies back in the center of town.

In a storm situation, employees often work their regular day shift and are either called back later that night or in the wee hours of the morning to begin storm prep. The town has one crew, which means they stay in town throughout the storm event, whether 10 or 24 hours.

Though the exact mixture of salt and sand depends on the type of storm, salt is the most important commodity for keeping streets clean. As in the rest of southern Connecticut, most of Wilton’s roads involve steep inclines and declines that are made passable mostly by salt.

Some towns, like Ridgefield, no longer use salt.