Originally published in The Weekly Packet, December 19, 2013
Residents in Blue Hill ask “where’s the salt?”
Selectmen to consider residential use at next meeting
by Faith DeAmbrose
Over the course of the last week, all three Blue Hill selectmen say they have received phone calls or in person requests from residents asking for access to the town’s sand salt. Historically the town had set aside sand salt for resident use, but that came to an end this spring.
Selectmen questioned whether they want to continue with the decades-old tradition or watch it come to an end this winter season? They will mull the topic over for the next week and revisit it at their December 20 meeting.
A little background
In 2011 voters approved $150,000 to fund the construction of a sand salt shed. The intent of the shed was to ensure that salt did not continuously leach from the pile and contaminate groundwater. A program administered by the Maine Department of Transportation aimed at curbing salt contamination was expected to eventually reimburse the town for half the cost of the construction.
This past spring, funding became available for the program and MDOT officials made a trip to the shed for an inspection ahead of the reimbursement. At that inspection, said Road Commissioner Billy Cousins, he was told that in order to receive the reimbursement the town could not have any exposed sand salt on the premises.
Friday, December 12 meeting
During the board’s regular meeting on December 12, Selectman Jim Schatz said he had fielded a number of calls and visits from residents regarding access to the sand salt. “I got a visit right before I came to this meeting,” said Chairman John Bannister. “That was just about the same time I received a phone call on the same topic,” said Selectman Vaughn Leach.
Cousins said the building used to house the sand salt available to residents could not be used because it did not have a floor and therefore would allow salt to leach into the ground. He said there was also a large opening on one side that would also bar it from use, according to guidance given by MDOT officials at their spring meeting. Cousins suggested the construction of something smaller—roughly 4’ by 8’ and with a floor—if the selectmen were to continue with residential use.
Cousins said that if the selectmen agreed to make the sand salt available he wanted to ensure it was in a small receptacle. He said he has had problems in the past with the sand salt being taken by residents who have private sanding accounts and use the materials for their own business use. “Last year about 230 yards of sand salt was lost from that little building,” said Cousins, “at a cost of $6,000 to the town.” He said he “wasn’t against people filling five-gallon buckets of sand for their driveways,” but wasn’t sure how to regulate it.