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Wrong salt, slag mix keeps roads slick, schools shut

Published: Sat, January 31, 2009 @ 12:00 a.m.

Not enough salt caused problems on Youngstown roads.


YOUNGSTOWN — The city schools superintendent was driving to her office Friday when she saw a car slide out of control to avoid an adult who was walking in the street — because the sidewalk was not cleared of snow and ice.

Wendy Webb said the incident reaffirmed her decision to close schools Friday for the third consecutive day.

“There was no place for kids to walk but in the street,” she said.

“It was just too dangerous to put the kids on the street,” said Anthony DeNiro, assistant superintendent for school business affairs.

About half of Youngstown’s 7,250 children walk to school.

“We’d rather go an extra day when the weather is nice than to put the kids out there in that ice and snow,” DeNiro said.

The Warren city schools faced the same conditions, said Superintendent Kathryn Hellweg.

The sidewalks and side streets in the neighborhoods just weren’t cleared, Hellweg said Friday, noting that about half of Warren’s 5,600 children walk to school.

In many cases, there wasn’t even space cleared off for children to wait for a bus had school been open, she said.

“We can’t have our kids walking on the main thoroughfares or the middle of the road,” Hellweg said.

Streets were still snow-covered Friday morning.

The problem in Youngstown was the salt-slag mix its street department spread on roads had too little salt, which failed to melt snow and ice, said Joseph Mastropietro, the city’s street superintendent. More salt and less slag is needed when the temperatures are this low, he said.

“The salt amount we used was not breaking up the ice sufficiently,” he said. “The main streets, especially, were packed down by the traffic.”

Those main streets, he said, include Mahoning Avenue, Meridian Road, Market Street, Martin Luther King Boulevard, Belmont Avenue and Fifth Avenue.

On Friday morning, the department changed the 50-50 mix of salt-slag to two-thirds salt and one-third slag, Mastropietro said.

“We went back on the main streets [Friday] and hopefully it will melt,” he said.

Charles Shasho, the city’s deputy director of public works, said the city was using less salt in the mix because it’s expensive.

But when it became obvious that the salt-slag wasn’t melting the snow and ice on the roads, more salt was added, Shasho said.

“I’m hearing a lot of complaints,” he said. “The main roads are unacceptable. They will be significantly better.”

Mayor Jay Williams said he was dissatisfied with the condition of the city roads. The cost of salt was not a consideration in the mixture, which contradicts what Shasho said.

“The mixture wasn’t appropriate for the conditions,” Williams said.

Williams added that he wasn’t pleased that it took a few days to figure out the salt-slag mix wasn’t helping road conditions.

“They’ve been doing this for a number of years,” he said of those at the street department. “Why did this happen? Someone missed an assignment and we corrected it. When you see a problem, you inquire about it and then fix it.”

Howard Tattrie, 48, of Youngstown gave the city the benefit of the doubt.

“I think they’ve done alright, given the money they have, the area they have to cover and the amount of snow that fell,” Tattrie said.

“Although getting up Fifth [Avenue] was tricky in a Ford Ranger,” he said of fishtailing up the hill.

Karen Davis of Youngstown works in 20 Federal Place and was willing to cut the city some slack as well.

“You can’t do much with four inches of ice on the road,” Davis said.

Some parents are having a difficult time dealing with the school closing, particularly those who work and may not have someone to watch their children, said Richard Pezzenti, vice president of the Kirkmere Elementary School PTO.

“The parents are going to be mad,” he said Friday. “I thought they would be back to school yesterday.”

Pezzenti said he isn’t angry with the school system and realizes school officials are acting “on the side of caution.”

It’s the city’s fault for not keeping the roads cleared, he said, noting that, as of Friday afternoon, some streets in his area still hadn’t been cleared.


1Tugboat(759 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

I am fed up with private snow plow operators who push snow onto the public sidewalk when clearing private lots and just leave it there. I don't mind trudging through deep snow but these people render the sidewalks impassable for months.

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2ROBERT(138 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

I drove in 3 counties in this most recent weather and Y-town was the worst by far. The roads were unsafe. Portage and Summit counties had the same, or more, snow and ice but the roads were way better.

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3HereToServe(39 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

Your comments are all valid about the streets especially the Mayors comment.
The city officials are just as frustrated with the conditions of the streets and the actions of the street department.
Please call your local officials with your concerns so the situation may be dealt with appropriately.

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4henryviii1509(274 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

Welcome to Y'town/NE Ohio. The weather s-cks, there are no jobs, crime is rampant and now, nobody will clear their sidewalk for fear of being sued. This is a great place to live.
No sarcasm intended!

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5aeparish(669 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

Grump, I see their point, but... if there's snow on the ground most likely there's ice somewhere nearby. So, a person really should be responsible enough to know that, too, even though we all know there are people out there that are stupid enough to ruin it for everyone.

And Tugboat, when you said, "It says a lot about a community when most people don't give a damn about clearing the sidewalks in front of their own homes or businesses." It does say a lot. But it says even more that the community doesn't give a damn about clearing the sidewalks (and the roads appropriately) for education sake. No wonder these kids are't learning anything.

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6metz87(884 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

Welwell it's the miidle of winter and they stil lcan't clear the roads worh a darn! If I did such a bad job like the county did i wold be out of a job. How many people does it take to figure out that the mixture will not work? Not enough Indians and too many Chiefs Isay.

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7Fred(130 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

There is no need for salt or snow plowing. Global warming will melt the snow and ice away.

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8ytownsteelman(628 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

I think people should stop having this expectation that sidewalks will be clear in the winter. Its just ridiculous to expect that a sidewalk which is placed right in the zone where plowed snow is to land is going to be kept shoveled, especially when it will be of little use to the person living there.

Since sidewalks are not present along every road or street, they should be considered a convenience and not a right.

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9aeparish(669 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago


Sorry, I did mean you. Thanks for correcting it.

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10TheLostPatrol(756 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

I just hope that when Lisa Antonini sends out the tax bills, that there is a box to "check" on it if you want all of your dollars to go towards buying road salt. Better yet, instead of sending a check for the taxes due, maybe sending the entire amount due in rolls of pennies would send a message; "if you are that incompetent to throw down the wrong mix of salt, then I'm that incompetent to send you the entire amount due in pennies than in one check."

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11metz87(884 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

I think sometihng else happened. if you recall we got sued to mild winters and so coutnies and cities are not buying as much salt. well we are now getting abck to good old fashioned winters and we are not buying as much salt as we should be. Why not set up a escrow account so that we have extra money to buy more salt when we need it?

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12Ianacek(909 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

If the City's economy is to keep functioning & growing , people have to abe able to get to their schools & workplaces year-round .

The City & its employees should just "make it happen" without the excuses we keep hearing . They wouldn't be acceptable anywhere else .

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13Stan(9923 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

Our mayor drives over the same roads that we do and tolerates it. As soon as he totals his car on a slick road change will come.

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14jimiohoh(86 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

Jay, where do you find these guys in your sreet department; for clearing, salting? and patching the streets of Y-town? Cronies from your election? They sure don't have any expertise on what's happenning with the roads in this area. Go outside your district and you'll see the difference'. This a year-round snafu.

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15city_dweller(194 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

Whine, whine, whine. It's winter, people. And we got 18 inches of snow in two weeks with freezing temperatures that ensured the snow got compacted and is therefore harder to shovel and plow.

While I agree with the decision to close schools because little kids have no business traversing the streets and/or sidewalks, I didn't have insurmountable trouble driving. Sure it was slushy and icy in places, but that was true whether I was in Youngstown, Austintown, Boardman or anywhere else.

Seriously, what do you expect? Those street workers were out 24/7, and yes, a mistake was made with the salt, but to read these boards is to believe that Armageddon is coming because the snow piled up.

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16metz87(884 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

So let's jsut live with crppy roads and ice covered roads that should be in better shape? I think not!

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17allstar720(253 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

No, lets just hear more about Austintown shall we?

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18metz87(884 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

Sure why not?

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19baboo(43 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

Anyone for a rubber of bridge?

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20metz87(884 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago


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