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Maysville to try beets on icy roads

MAYSVILLE — A northeastern Kentucky town may have found a new way to "beet" icy road conditions in winter with a compound based on everyone's favorite vegetable.

Maysville Public Works Director Jim Fryman said the city will be using geomelt, a concentrate primarily made of beets, along with the traditional salt to treat icy roads.

"The sugar in it helps keep the ice from bonding to the road," said City Manager Ray Young.

The city made the move in part because of a shortage of salt and skyrocketing prices for the commodity. This year salt has increased in price from $51 a ton in 2007 to $103 a ton in 2008, Young said. Young said that last year, 780 tons of salt was purchased from Morton and a small amount of that purchase was left over.

The city has two storage units of 1,200 gallons each of geomelt, and paid the equivalent of $2.85 per ton, Fryman told The Ledger Independent in Maysville.

"The increase in price makes alternative resources come into play," said Young. "It's very expensive this year. Some places have doubled in cost. It's a tough situation. We'll do the best we can to keep the roads safe and clean."

Fryman said that along with the geomelt, the city also has about 500 tons of road salt.

The city uses about 500 tons of salt during a winter with average snowfall, Fryman said. But, that can double when the snow is heavy, he said.

"A really bad winter has seen over 1,000 tons," Fryman said. "It could get bad with the shortage of salt."

Along with the new compound, Fryman is hoping a new de-icing strategy will help save salt this year.

City employees won't salt as much as in the past before snow falls, instead concentrating on heavily traveled hills, dangerous roads and intersections, Fryman said.

The geomelt will be mixed as it is loaded onto trucks and pumped with a hose.

But, Fryman said, the city expects to learn as it goes during its first year using geomelt.

"It looks real dirty and sandy from treating the salt," Fryman said about what drivers should expect to see on roads.