PITTSFIELD -- The city Highway Department has scrambled to purchase enough road sand for icy streets after Pittsfield Sand and Gravel halted production of the processed material earlier this year.
The local company typically supplied most of the city's need for roughly 5,000 tons of sand per winter season, said Commissioner of Public Utilities Bruce Collingwood.
Richmond Town Administrator Matthew Kerwood, who is active with the Berkshire County Purchasing Group, through which communities seek bids for highway-related projects, said bids for sand and other products are bid jointly then awarded by community. He said Pittsfield Sand and Gravel's withdrawal from providing highway sand primarily affected Pittsfield but some other group members as well.
Two other problems also contributed to the scramble this season for highway said, Kerwood said. The low bid for sand for Pittsfield came from William E. Daily Inc. of Shaftsbury, Vt., he said. However, when the first load arrived it did not meet bid specifications for Massachusetts -- although the crushed stone material is used in Vermont and New York.
Pittsfield then sought out the next lowest bidder, N. Della Inc. of Adams, Collingwood said, but that supplier had not stockpiled enough of the processed washed sand, because they did not anticipate the need. The Adams supplier is providing some road sand to the city, but doesn't have enough on hand -- and it also is getting requests from other Berkshire communities, Collingwood said.
Pittsfield Sand and Gravel did have a limited amount of sand stockpiled, but it has notified local officials it won't be making road sand any longer, Collingwood said.
The business is headquartered in Schenectady, N.Y., listed under Callanan Industries Inc. Officials there could not be reached for comment on whether the business will resume processing road sand or continue in business with other earth products in Pittsfield.
Collingwood said sand normally is mixed with road salt in roughly a 50-50 mixture. The city could use all salt if there is no other choice, as some communities are considering, he said, or increase the mixture toward mostly salt.
"We're using it [sand] somewhat sparingly until we know we can get more," he said, adding that it's difficult to predict the need for sand, which is dependent on weather conditions.
Kerwood said the countywide committee that develops bidding procedures for the group purchasing consortium could make changes in how sand is bid.
"Going forward, we will talk to highway supervisors to see if there is a different way to bid sand," he said. "Maybe that will be as a standalone bid, not together with bids for other [highway] materials."
To reach Jim Therrien:
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