Casco refills sand shed, struggles with snow budget
By Dawn De Busk
CASCO — It seems that sand is a year-round commodity.
In the summer, warm golden sand is coveted by many a bare foot. In the winter, sand is needed underfoot to combat icy roads.
The Town of Casco — like so many communities in Maine — has winged through its sand supply this winter.
Technically, that somewhat course sand is mixed with road salt, which is sodium chloride with additives to accelerate the melting of snow and ice.
“Last year, we didn’t use the first load of sand we put in the building. This year, we are putting in a third load” in the sand shed, according to Casco Town Manager Dave Morton.
“The sand pile that was completed in September and refilled in December, has been refilled again this week,” Morton reported to the Casco Board of Selectmen on Tuesday.
“We have gone through a considerable amount of sand and salt. It is about four times as much as last winter. And, the winter is still young,” he said.
The costs associated with winter road maintenance have exceeded the amount of money in that budget, Morton said.
“We will be over budget in January,” he said.
“March is a big month for sanding,” he said. “During the day, the snow melts and water runs over roads. As evening comes, it freezes.”
“We are fortunate to have the (Cumberland County) Sherriff’s department on patrol at night. If they see the roads are getting slippery, they call dispatch. Dispatch calls me. Then, I call the the snow plow company,” he said.
Morton serves in the capacity of Casco Road Commission. C Pond Plowing has the winter road maintenance contract with the town.
The plow company that has a contract with the town has a certain schedule for snow removal and is sometimes called away from that routine to clear snow for emergency vehicles needing access in other parts of town, Morton said.
The main roads are priority. The public easements are plowed in a certain order.
“Unfortunately, not everyone can be first to be plowed,” he said. “The town cannot accommodate people’s work and appointment schedules.”
Currently, the plow trucks have been playing catchup. Over the weekend and through this week, some trucks have been working to push back snowbanks and increase line-of-sight for drivers. In some cases, the moving of snow has caused residential driveways to be filled with snow chunks.
Other times, mailboxes have been covered with snow or damaged. Unfortunately for the mailbox owners along the rural mail route, the town is not legally responsible for damage to mailboxes, Morton said.
The Town of Casco has plenty of expenses associated with a winter when those months bring many snowstorms and ice events.
“It is going to be a tough year for our snow budget,” Morton told the board.
“Last year, we carried $19,000 forward,” he said.
“We are approaching 7,000 yards of sand,” he said, comparing that to 3,000 yards of sand — some of which was unused last winter.
“In addition, we are using more road salt this year,” he said.
“The contract is fixed. Then, we buy the sand and salt. We also have (separate) contracts for sidewalks and parking lot snow removal,” he said.
In fact, the town had snow removed at the loading dock of the U.S. Post Office in the Village because the mail truck could no longer maneuver into the loading dock, he said.
“March is the hardest month, you get your thawing and freezing cycles,” Morton said. “That is what drives up our cost of materials.”