Archive for Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Winter’s icy touch

City crews supplied with sand, salt by Tonganoxie company

January 12, 2005

City Superintendent Butch Rodgers couldn't be happier that a new business has opened in Tonganoxie -- particularly as Rodgers and city crews battle winter weather.

In previous winters, Rodgers worried about running out of sand and salt that his workers apply to city streets to lessen the impact of ice and snow storms. Now, however, a business new to Tonganoxie can ensure the city has adequate supplies.


Longtime Tonganoxie resident Larry Stockman opened Tongie Rocks Inc. in the former grain elevators on the east end of the city's downtown. Stockman carries gravel and sand, along with salt. In the spring, he plans to sell decorative rocks and bulk mulch.

"We'll have a year-round business," Stockman said. "It's not just a seasonable business. It will be for lawn care and decorations."

And the elevator scales are open and certified, available to farmers.

Stockman's business provides sand and salt in a 300-mile radius, from Springfield, Mo., to Salina.

"We've been in ice control for about the last five years," he said.

His firm hauls products for companies that clear major parking lots, including the Great Plains Mall and Arrowhead Stadium.

"We haul to the sites, too," Stockman said. "We have a trucking company that delivers direct to them. We haul here, too."

And so far this winter, sales have been brisk.

"We're selling it as fast as we can get it," Stockman said.

What's next

And with his experience in ridding parking lots and streets of ice and snow, Stockman could be considered something of a weather forecaster. His predictions are those that school children love.

"It's going to keep happening," he said of the wintry moisture. "It's not a good thing. But it is for me. I don't wish any bad things on anybody. That's why we're here: To make it a little better."

For the city, the convenience is a boon, Rodgers said.

"We do stockpile on site," he said. "But now, when we run out, we've got the availability to go over and get it twenty-four-seven. As long as he's got salt over there, we can get it when we need it."

Although city crews go to work when weather turns streets icy, the Tonganoxie school superintendent at times is forced to call off school. The local district runs a number of buses throughout the district, and those buses must travel on sometimes-treacherous roads.

School's out

Last week, Superintendent Richard Erickson dismissed class on Tuesday at 2 p.m., and cancelled classes on Wednesday and Thursday.

At this point, there's no concern that students and teachers would have to be in session for extra days to make up time because Erickson built in extra hours into the school calendar.

"I try to plan on about six to seven days," he said. "When we get close to using five, I start looking at those hours really closely."

With students out of school for two days, fewer vehicles were on local roads, and that helped keep a lid on accidents. In Tonganoxie, police dispatcher Mike Vestal reported few accidents related to last week's storm, while county officials responded to a spate of crashes.

Meanwhile, firefighters were called out numerous times because of concerns about downed power lines.

"We had three or four actual tree fires," said Fire Chief Dave Bennett. "And there were four more arcing power lines that we responded to.

"We survived pretty well."

As serious as last week's ice storm was, Joe Heinen of Leavenworth-Jefferson Rural Electric Cooperative, said he was thankful the wind didn't blow.

"Trees and the lines would have been whipping around, more trees would have broken and there would have been more problems," said Heinen, director of member services for the McLouth-based co-op.

Also helping the electric cooperative was the fact that the company had recently installed 7.5 miles of new lines along Wellman Road in Jefferson County.

By Friday afternoon, Heinen said, he thought electricity had been restored to almost all their customers.

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