Preventing cars from sliding on icy roads and supplying electricity to public buildings are the type of local government functions that usually operate behind the scenes.
But those projects came to the forefront Friday when North Fayette and Collier shared their environmentally friendly,cost-cutting systems with visitors from fellow municipalities.
North Fayette officials demonstrated how the public works department manufactures and spreads salt brine on roads in the winter, while Collier presented the rooftop solar panels on its public works facility.
Representatives of South Fayette, Moon, Upper St. Clair, Mt. Lebanon, Cranberry, Elizabeth, Swissvale and Forest Hills attended “Greening Your Fleets & Streets: A PublicWorks Learning Lab,” a seminar highlighting sustainable practices in local public works departments.
The program was offered through the Local Government Academy, an independent, Pittsburgh-based organization offering support and education to municipalities. Partners were the nonprofit Sustainable Pittsburgh and the Western Pennsylvania chapter of the American Public Works Association.
“Within a municipality's public works department lies a host of opportunities to incorporate sustainability initiatives, and there are several examples of successful projects right here in southwestern Pennsylvania,” according to the program announcement.
North Fayette is one of the first local towns to fully adopt the salt brine method, which the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation uses.
Public works director Patrick Felton — a former PennDOT employee — said roads are pre-treated up to 72 hours before a storm hits in order to melt snow, prevent ice from bonding to the pavement and buy time for additional road crews to mobilize.
“You’re speeding up the process of snow removal,” Mr.Felton said.
The township uses special machinery to produce salt brine by mixing a solution of water and rock salt, he said.
Conventional treatment of the township’s 176 miles of road takes 12 trucks and 80 tons — or $4,500 worth — of rock salt. In contrast, the brine system uses 6 tons — or $340 worth — of salt, Mr. Felton said.
The brine system means the township uses less salt overall,which benefits the environment by reducing the amount of salt that winds up in the ground and in water supplies, he said.
The township has invested about $85,000 in brine production machinery, two tanker trucks and other equipment. Mr. Felton expected to recoup the expenses within a few years through the money saved on salt.
North Fayette is considering selling salt brine to other municipalities, including those who can’t afford to produce it themselves.
“It was nice to be able to explain to other local municipalities what we do, and possibly what services we can offer with selling the brine,” Mr. Felton said.
In Collier, participants toured the solar panels that were installed earlier this year on the roof of the public works building off Hilltop Road.
It’s the first solar roof installed on a municipal building in Allegheny County.
Speakers included Mike Carnahan of Scalo Solar Solutions in Crafton, the company that designed and installed the panels.
Collier manager Sal Sirabella said the solar panels harvest electricity for the public works facility and the municipal building, plus produce surplus energy that is sold back to the utility company.
“It’s a fairly complicated arrangement, but it’s something I would recommend to any local government, if they need a roof,” he said.
He said Collier’s project was cost-effective partly because the public works building needed to replace its 30-year-old roof anyway.
He said the solar panels setup will save the township about $75,000 over six years.
“It’s getting good public feedback, and it’s really the right thing to do for the future,” he said.
Andrea Iglar, freelance writer: email@example.com.