Select Board OKs $500K In ARPA Funds For DPW’s New Salt Shed

Photo: The existing salt shed at the DPW yard, currently closed for safety reasons.

Each year – winter, really – Belmont uses 5,100 tons of salt on town roads to keep the streets safe and manageable when ever it snows.

And you gotta store it somewhere. For the past 35 years, the salt –  basically sodium chloride much like table salt – has been stored in a bee-hive shaped shed located at the Department of Public Works yard. At 36 feet tall and 72 feet in diameter, the octagonal structure was constructed with six-foot steel reinforced concrete retaining walls that supported the wood beam dome.

But storing corrosive material such as salt in a location for decades end up doing bad things. For years, workers witnessed the six-foot steel reinforced concrete wall rusting through and showing signs of failure. In addition, the narrowness of the entry into the shed has resulted in the town’s excavator hitting the walls inside a dark interior as it maneuvered inside the structure to retrieve salt.

In July, workers began hearing what sounded like a “door opening and closing,” said DPW Director Jay Marcotte. Looking inside the shed, employees discovered the wooden dome was lifting off from the concrete wall. The DPW had seen enough, chaining a gate to the shed and closed it down.

A subsequent investigation found the wood frame was collapsing and actually being supported by the salt pile. Removing the salt when the first snows event occurs would likely cause the roof to collapse with possible injuries.

The solution: Replace wood with fabric. BETA Engineering, the town’s consultant, recommends an engineered fabric metal structure manufactured and installed by Clear Span Fabric Structures of South Windsor CT. A specialist in creating salt sheds, the firm recommended a 65 foot wide, 80 foot long and 36 feet high fabric covered structure with block footings and interior lighting.

One main advantage using this structure is it can be moved to accommodate future town plans for the DPW site.

A breakdown of the cost:

  • $50,000 to BETA Group,
  • $375,000 to Clear Span for the material and installation;
  • $50,000 to remove the current shed and move and tarp the existing salt; and
  • $25,000 for prep work.

The funds to build the new shed is allocated from the town’s American Rescue Plan Act account, which leaves a balance of approximately $4 million.

The existing dome and the concrete supporting walls will be removed, the salt covered with a tarp and a new structure built at the same location. Construction will take place in the next 8 to 10 weeks with the onsite installation taking 3 to 4 weeks. The new shed should be ready around mid-December, according to Marcotte.

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