PEPPERELL — “We’re ready for winter,” Highway Superintendent Peter Shattuck reported last week.
“The sand and salt sheds are full, cracks in all plow blades (14 plus two spares) are repaired and they’ve been repainted,” he said, while walking around the perimeter of the Lowell Road facility.
The price of salt from Eastern Minerals in Chelsea is up $1.50 per ton to $68.50. Sand is $10.15 per ton this year. A new roof was put on the salt shed last year.
Equally important is the full supply of de-icing liquid that Pepperell mixes with sand and salt to not only make supplies go further, but to lower the freezing temperature on the road surface, stalling ice buildup.
Weather stripping has been added to the sides of the large garage doors to keep more heat inside. The garage is heated with waste engine oil.
When all vehicles are parked indoors, the seven or eight town highway trucks “make it look as if we have more than enough, doesn’t it?” Shattuck said. “When it comes to plowing, we don’t, however.”
With one exception, Pepperell has new-looking older trucks, all of which have been built or rebuilt by the department. One brand-new sander/dump combination truck had been purchased by last year’s town meeting for $120,000 and sits ready to go.
“We can use this new truck for anything, any time of year,” Shattuck said.
Money for a new sander body and plow was also approved. The new sander body is installed on a rebuilt truck. A new dump body has been affixed to an older 1988 chassis. The department replaced the cab with one from a dealer and painted the vehicle in the town’s green and black with red wheels.
Shattuck is proud to report that Pepperell gets more use out of sander bodies than do most towns. The steel bodies carry salt and rust quickly. They are washed after every use and when their floors are bad, the units are shipped out to have new floors welded in. Everything is painted in-house.
The rebuild mentality is applied to fire apparatus also. Shattuck said only International Harvester vehicles will be used because they share similar parts with highway vehicles.
“No more Freightliners or Macks,” Shattuck said.
The department has two large front-end loaders which are often seen plowing streets during heavy snow. When they’re on that task, the highway yard is served by a venerable 1963 vintage loader that is kept operable.
But it isn’t always the older vehicle that breaks down. The newest ambulance, a Ford, has been experiencing frequent breakdowns, Shattuck said and its turbo recently blew up on the way to a call. The town’s older ambulance, a lighter-chassis Ford, is slated for replacement next year.
“I do have one request of residents,” Shattuck said. “During snow storms it is very helpful if cars are kept off the roads and for residents to ‘adopt’ storm drains near their homes by keeping leaves, snow and ice off of them.”