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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.


1NoBS(2829 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

Ms Davis says "You can't do much with four inches of ice on the roads." and that's true, in and of itself. But there should never have been four inches of slush ALLOWED to accumulate on the road and turn to ice. That's the point she misses.

The cities, townships, villages, and so on, ALL need to start enforcing laws already on the books that say sidewalks MUST be cleared. Closing the schools because the sidewalks aren't shovelled is shameful. 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.

And as for the roads, there are plenty of suburban roads that are just as unacceptably ice-covered and rough as those in the city. So maybe the County road department cheaped out and had the wrong mix, too.

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2Tugboat(759 comments)posted 7 years, 5 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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3HereToServe(39 comments)posted 7 years, 5 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 7 years, 5 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 7 years, 5 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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6Fred(131 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

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

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7NoBS(2829 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

Grump, I'm not shooting the bearer because I don't like the news, but good grief! The insurance companies are telling people NOT to shovel their walks because they don't want to have to pay any settlement money. I say let's do away with sidewalks altogether, then, and avoid the liability in the summertime, too!

Oh, but people should know better than to walk in the road, too - that's where cars drive, not where people are supposed to walk. Guess they shouldn't go anywhere unless they drive.

And aeparish, that wasn't Tugboat who said the quote you attribute to him, it was me, in the post before his. I see what you're saying by way of reply, but realistically it would be a logistical nightmare having city, county, et al crews out shoveling all sidewalks so the kids could walk to school. It makes much more sense to simply enforce the laws already on the books that require the homeowner or business owner to do it. That way everybody is responsible for the short stretch in front of their place.

But nobody wants to be responsible for anything any more.

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8ytownsteelman(680 comments)posted 7 years, 5 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 7 years, 5 months ago


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

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10Stan(9923 comments)posted 7 years, 5 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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11jimiohoh(88 comments)posted 7 years, 5 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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12baboo(43 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

Anyone for a rubber of bridge?

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