The Town of Chevy Chase, like many of the Chevy Chase municipalities, does its own snow removal, which typically means acquiring some salt and sand supplies from Montgomery County’s Department of Transportation.
On Monday, the Town said its normal snow removal efforts were taking longer than expected because the county “severely limited the amount of salt and sand available to the town and other down-County municipalities due to a supply shortage.”
According to Montgomery County, there was never a supply shortage.
“We had an adequate amount of salt for this storm,” said Montgomery County Department of Transportaton spokesperson Esther Bowring. “Normally, we would have pre-treated, but because of the rain on Sunday, we couldn’t. It would have washed away. We ended up mixing salt and sand in anticipation of the ice and snow.”
Bowring said the Department of Transportation’s Highway Services division had about 20,000 tons of salt on-hand before the storm and is using about 10,000-12,000 tons during snow removal operations. She also said DOT gets more salt and sand delivered in during storm events.
“The county provided salt to the municipalities to meet their needs, but no more,” Bowring said.
Town Manager Todd Hoffman, said the Town’s contractors usually go to the county’s Silver Spring Depot, but had to go to a different depot off Route 29 to get salt and sand.
“We were initially told we couldn’t have any materials, so it was quite a surprise,” Hoffman said.
The Town has about six lane miles of roads. Montgomery County has about 5,000 lane miles.
Shana Davis-Cook, manager for Chevy Chase Village, said the Village managed to get enough salt and sand to address its needs. Robert Weesner, manager of North Chevy Chase Village, said North Chevy Chase’s contractor didn’t use sand or salt provided by the county.
“Our contractor has been able to successfully clear and treat our roads well before county roads have been touched,” Weesner wrote in an email. “We have been able to treat our roads without the grossly wasteful over-application of salt that is the rule in the county.”
David Lublin, a Town of Chevy Chase council member and local politics blogger, wrote about the Town’s perception that it was shorted on salt supplies, even posing it as a political issue for County Executive Isiah Leggett:
Is today’s snowstorm going to put a dent in County Executive Ike Leggett’s reelection prospects?
Salt Shortage, Show Removal Problems
It has been a long winter and Montgomery County ran short of salt to pre-treat the roads for the storm. In many areas, the streets were first plowed before they were salted, uncovering a sheet of ice underneath the snow that will now likely to have to wait for warmer weather–not to arrive for at least a couple of day–to remove.
Smaller municipalities were especially hard hit. At first, the the County did not even want to release any salt to smaller municipalities that rely on it to supply it through longstanding arrangements. They were not happy.
County officials say that’s not an accurate account.
Leggett said the county was over its snow removal budget for the year before the last storm, the one in February that brought 12-18 inches of snow to the county. Leggett and Highway Services boss Keith Compton also said that wouldn’t prevent the county from having the supplies it needed.
During that last storm, the county had upwards of 650 pieces of snow removal equipment on the roads, a record.