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Kent's Free Rock Salt Program Canceled After Only Two Weeks.

'Inappropriate pickup' and safety issues are main reasons behind decision.

A few bad apples have spoiled , launched just two weeks ago.

Kent Service Director Gene Roberts announced the program’s suspension Friday due to several instances of “inappropriate pickup” and safety issues brought to light by a man wandering into the city’s salt dome in search of more product.

City Manager Dave Ruller introduced the free service Jan. 5 in his Kent 360° blog post about the importance of residents shoveling and salting their sidewalks – and the city’s efforts to get that message out.

Ruller said he was hopeful that giving rock salt away was a better means to encourage snow shoveling than establishing stricter laws and penalties for people who don't clear their walks.

He also made sure to point out, “This is meant as a service for residents, not contractors, and we will use video equipment to make sure that the right people are using this new service.”

Roberts said Friday that program violators weren't deterred by the video camera trained on the salt bin, situated just outside the fence surrounding Kent’s yard waste site. Nor were they deterred by the presence of city employees working nearby.

“During the last major storm event, there was a guy who pulled up in a pickup truck with a snowplow on the front who unloaded the whole bin into his truck. Another guy came in and filled up eight 5-gallon buckets. There’s no reason an individual resident would need that much salt,” Roberts said.

A safety issue came to light, Roberts said, when “another guy walked into the salt dome wanting to fill his bucket.” The dome is used to store salt that is loaded into city trucks with large equipment – and it’s not open to the public.

Roberts said the city gave away between 2¼ and 2½ tons of salt during the two-week experiment at a cost of about $80. But those stats didn’t lead to the program’s demise.

“It was the fact that it was being abused. People weren’t acting appropriately and were even starting to act in an unsafe manner,” Roberts explained.

The service director said he couldn’t estimate how many individual residents cashed in on the service during its two-week run.

“If in the event everybody took a bucket, we could get close to an accurate number. But when you get one guy emptying the entire barrel into a trash can … they were emptying it as quickly as we would fill it up,” Roberts said. “Hopefully our good Kent residents were able to get a bucket of salt when the program was operational.”

Just to be sure the program should be suspended, Roberts got up early Friday morning to drive up and down various Kent streets for a first-hand look.

“I’d have a different opinion (about canceling the program) if I had driven down city streets and saw a lot of sidewalks wet from salt – not snowy,” he said.

As for the program violators? The city won’t be pursuing action against them.

“We haven’t watched every hour of videotape. The one thing I can say with a high degree of certainty is that we can identify vehicles, but not to that same degree of certainty who was driving them,” Roberts explained. “We’re just cutting (the service) off before we lose any more money. It’s a shame that it didn’t work out.”

Jack Kelly January 23, 2012 at 03:47 PM
LOL I was thinking the same thing. Post the video for a little public humiliation. Blackout/blur license plates, but leave the rest of the video unedited. People would be dropping names pretty quickly. And good. Morons like that deserve to be humiliated.
Jack Kelly January 23, 2012 at 03:51 PM
Uhh...you've been warned before by other administrators of local Patch's to use your REAL name. We're grown up's here who don't hide behind some stupid alias like a coward. Perhaps you should learn how to read because your alias is against TOS.
Jack Kelly January 23, 2012 at 03:52 PM
You should be able to, at least, view them via a public records request. Which would have to be done during normal business hours.
Michael Pacifico January 24, 2012 at 07:01 PM
I am assuming that the indivdual who loaded a truck full of salt committed a crime, since the rational for not following up was that it would cost more to prosecute than the cost of the salt taken. Am I to assume that the city of Kent only prosecutes only if it is economically lucrative? I find this reasoning very disturbing.
Kasha Legeza January 25, 2012 at 09:46 PM
City Manager Dave Ruller wrote about the program's suspension in his Kent 360 blog this week: http://www.kent360.com/7018-salt-program-suspended.html.

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