Like all public works departments, the Town of Oxford, Mass. constantly juggles what 14,000 residents need with what they can afford. Nineteen employees service police, fire, and general-purpose vehicles; provide sewer service; maintain 100 acres of parks, playing fields, and cemeteries; and provide technical consultation to other departments serving the 27-square-mile community.
“We design and build things like playgrounds, basketball courts, parking lots, and drainage and septic systems, which keeps us in the black and saves the town a considerable amount of money," says Public Works Director Sean Divoll.
Prompted by a 2009 funding cutback, the team’s most recent innovation has been removing sand from snow-and-ice control. Their goal was to reduce costs and improve road conditions during and after storms without upgrading trucks. A careful analysis showed that using pre-treated salt would eliminate cradle-to-grave sand costs, achieve better melting efficiency, and require no vehicle modifications.
“We estimate a yearly savings of $100,000 in material costs, a 20% reduction in overtime during storms, and a 50% reduction in catch basin and sweeping costs,” says Divoll.
Word’s gotten around. “The towns of Auburn, Holden, and Leicester wanted to know how we achieved our success,” says Divoll.
Oxford held a free class for each town to explain the sand-versus-salt analysis and explain how to properly use deicing materials. Each has since achieved great success with its own transition. When a regional stormwater group heard about Oxford’s program, the department was asked to help write a standard operating procedure for 13 towns as a resource when evaluating sand use and its potential to pollute waterways.