This article appeared in the Lake George Mirror.
Village officials are poised to embark on a novel venture — they’ve decided to modify their wintertime road maintenance procedures in one small section of the municipality, at the request of local homeowners.
A half-dozen or so residents of the Schuyler Heights neighborhood recently sent the village board letters requesting that their dead-end street be declared a “salt free zone,” with de-icing materials being excluded from routine wintertime road-clearing efforts, village Mayor Bob Blais said. A group of short, interconnected streets in the northern area of town — Pettis, Shaw, Norman, and Nelson streets plus Hammond Drive, are known as Schuyler Heights.
Schuyler Heights resident Brian Dunleavy, for instance, requested in his letter for the suspension of salt use because the few cars that travel on their street go slowly, so safety hazards were minimal, Blais reported. The letter cited that the salt-free zone might generate favorable publicity for the village of Lake George.
Village Public Works Superintendent Dave Harrington however, cautioned that eliminating the use of de-icing materials on roadways would create a hazard particularly during storms with freezing rain, or after back-to-back snowstorms which would cause an accumulation of ice or snow-pack that would be hard to remove. After a few such weather incidents, the roadway could be like a washboard, he said, and to remove the snow and ice buildup would take three times the salt that would otherwise be used.
Harrington also warned the board that elimination of road de-icing might expose the village to legal liability if an accident occurred.
“Obviously, we have to salt the hill,” he said, referring to Holly Drive, the steep roadway that serves as the neighborhood’s only entrance.
Harrington observed that the village, along with the Lake George town government, is already involved in a program that aims to reduce the use of sodium chloride by 20 to 50 percent — primarily through the use of “live edge” blades and salt-dispenser monitors on their snow plows, and using “Magic Salt” and brine to boost de-icing efficiency while reducing impact on the environment.
While the village and town have been curtailing use of road salt for a half-dozen years, the state Department of Transportation two months ago announced a program, in collaboration with local governments, to reduce salt use along Rte. 9N which runs along the west side of Lake George.
Despite the existing salt cutbacks, Blais suggested stepping up the effort for the Schuyler Heights neighborhood.
“People up there think its a good idea, the area isn’t heavily traveled and it drains into the lake,” he said.
“Let's try to reduce salt use up there, and see how it goes through mid-winter,” Blais continued, calling the effort a “pilot program” for the village.
Harrington agreed to the proposal.
“Okay, we'll let the sun do a little more work,” he replied.