Need salt or an equivalent for your icy driveway? Not to worry. As of Wednesday night, there was no problem with the supply. Not in the Twin Cities, anyway.

In Lewiston, at Shaw’s, pails of ice melt were on display in the front of the store, near the ice scrapers and other means of winter survival.

In Auburn, both Home Depot and Lowe’s had their stock of melting products, for both driveways and roofs, prominently displayed near the entrances. At Lowe’s a few dozen buckets were also on display, ready to be filled with the melting product of your choice.

At Walmart, you have to search a little bit harder – rock salt and pellets are kept in the garden department.

LEWISTON — There’s been a rush on sand stockpiles at municipal public works departments, and some towns are clamping down on the amount residents can take per visit.

Some towns are talking about installing surveillance cameras and prosecuting people who take more than allowed.

In Fryeburg and Rumford, where sand used to be available for personal use, the salt/sand sheds were closed to residents because people who don’t live in town, including commercial operators, were loading up trucks.

On Monday, Peru Selectman Danny Wing reported he recently had an altercation at the town’s sand/salt shed when he confronted a man who arrived to fill up his truck.

Peru allows residents to take up to two 5-gallon buckets of sand per trip from the town supply, but no one is allowed to take a truckload. But, large loads have been taken so often recently that the board agreed to contact police if anyone else is caught taking an excessive amount.

Wilton Town Manager Rhonda Irish expected a sand delivery Wednesday to replenish the town’s stockpile. Townspeople have been taking more sand than in past years, but they have to in these conditions to prevent slip and fall injuries, she said.

Wilton permits residents to take four buckets of sand per day for their personal use, and some people may take a little more if they’re helping a neighbor. The sand pile is at the Town Garage, but it will be moved to the transfer station within the next few weeks. Residents also can take sand from the pile behind the Town Office, Irish said. 

In Auburn, residents are permitted to take three buckets of sand per storm, but contractors aren’t allowed to take any. Once in a while a contractor is seen loading up, according to Angela Dow, an administrative assistant for the Public Works Department, and when that happens the contractor is reported to a supervisor within Public Works.

Sand is available to residents at the municipal site on Gracelawn Road and at the fire station on South Main Street, Dow said.

In Lewiston, residents are allowed to fill two buckets with sand at the Operation Center on River Road. No contractors are allowed to take the material, said Megan Bates, deputy director of highway and open space. The stockpile is monitored and the gates are locked when Public Works employees are not working.

Eric Conrad, director of communication and educational services for the Maine Municipal Association, said, “We’re off to a tough start this winter salt and sand-wise, so supplies are running lower earlier. And town officials don’t want to buy more sand and salt if they don’t have to.”

He said the situation in Peru is an example “of a town where there’s been great pressure to keep municipal costs down and property taxes low” and “monitoring free sand use is consistent with carefully watching every facet of town spending.”

“Thus, the time-honored practice of allowing citizens to get buckets of sand for free is being looked at,” Conrad said.

The sand stockpile in Sumner is getting low and residents need a sand permit from the Town Office. Once they do, they are allowed to take two 5-gallon buckets per trip.

According to Administrative Assistant Susan Runes, selectmen may be forced to put additional restrictions on residents’ use as a last resort if sand continues to be used at the current rate. But, she said, “We don’t want to have to stop our residents from taking sand. They paid for it.”

In Turner, where residents had been allowed to take up to three buckets per storm, the allowance has recently been lowered to two buckets.

When Rumford closed its sand pile to residents for personal use altogether, some people started traveling to neighboring Mexico for sand.

The policy in Mexico, according to Town Manager John Madigan, is to allow only residents to get sand, and they are limited to two buckets each.

“We’ve always strived to accommodate residents, and we’ll continue to do so,” he said, but given the number of nonresidents who have been drawing from the sand pile, Madigan said employees will post a sign letting people know the sand is limited to Mexico residents only, and that they have to get their sand before 2 p.m.

Dixfield is also seeing nonresidents taking sand, said Assistant Town Clerk Theresa Hemingway. It means a sign will go up at the stockpile warning people that the sand is for Dixfield residents only, and is limited to three buckets each trip.

Woodstock hasn’t placed any restrictions on sand use, said Public Works Foreman Randy Eastman, but the town’s supply is dwindling fast.

According to Conrad, “Towns are under intense pressure, budget-wise, with all the revenue-sharing cuts. The state is balancing its very large ($6.3 billion for two years) budget on the backs of local property taxpayers now. It’s that simple.” But no one wants to raise property taxes, so accounting for every bucket of sand has become critically important, he said.

In Livermore on Monday, selectmen talked about installing a camera at the landfill in an effort to stop people from taking truckloads of sand. The winter’s ice storms have taken a toll on the town’s stockpile, Road Foreman Roger Ferland told the Livermore Falls Advertiser, estimating he’ll have to buy another 2,000 yards to get the town through the rest of the winter.

The town allows residents to take up to two 5-gallon buckets of sand per storm, but people have been taking much more than that. Ferland said they’re also taking salt, which has never been allowed. And, he told the Sun Journal, people are driving around the entry gate to get access to the sand and salt.

A number of towns in Western Maine, including Norway, Farmington, Jay, Oxford, Greenwood, Roxbury, Rangeley, Andover and Chesterville, haven’t placed restrictions on sand use, but most towns have noticed a higher-than-usual amount being taken and are worried about the cost.

In Canton, Administrative Assistant Scott Kilbreth said residents are permitted to take two 5-gallon buckets “and absolutely no salt.”

He said, “We’re monitoring our salt because people have been taking whatever they wanted,” and that’s going to stop. Anyone taking salt will be prosecuted, Kilbreth said. The town has placed warning signs at the entrance to the storage area noting that license plates are recorded and will be checked for residency.

“It’s crazy,” Kilbreth said. “We’ve had people from out of town and even commercial people backing up and filling their sand-spreading trucks with sand.”

While Canton is not ready to restrict citizens from taking sand, “we’re not too far away” from doing that, he said.

West Paris Town Manager John White ordered sand delivery this week and said the town may consider putting restrictions on use, depending on whether the heavy use continues. “We recognize that people have driveways and really have no other good way of getting sand, but use has increased quite a bit with the ice we’ve had,” he said.

Paris is not considering restrictions. It owns its sand pit, Town Clerk Elizabeth Knox said, so budgeting the cost of sand isn’t as difficult there as it has been in other towns. Residents are allowed to take four 5-gallon buckets each visit.

Newry, and other towns that contract for winter maintenance, don’t offer sand to residents. But, according to Newry Administrator Loretta Powers, people can go to the Maine Department of Transportation stations with buckets and ask for sand.

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