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ELKHORN -- A legal dispute concerning a county ordinance that forbids short-term rental of residential homes has the county reviewing the language to provide more clarity.

 STATELINE NEWS -- A man was shot and killed in Beloit on Sunday. Police say they don’t believe it was a random act.

STATELINE NEWS -- A 19-year-old Beloit woman told Rock County Sheriff's deputies she was attacked Tuesday on Eau Claire Road south of Janesville and investigators now are seeking the unknown assailant.

TOWN OF BELOIT -- Students at Beloit Turner High School and Middle School were released on time Friday, Nov. 14, 2014 after being on lockdown for about an hour during the afternoon.

Thursday, 13 November 2014 00:00

Bracing for winter

Written by

MESSENGER -- According to the old joke, there are only two seasons in Wisconsin: winter and road construction.

And while area crews might still be working on highway improvements, they’ll have to make way soon for snowplows and salt trucks.

In the city of Janesville, those trucks will be ready, with 1,300 tons of salt on hand and another 3,000 tons due to arrive in the next few weeks, said John Whitcomb, operations director.

“We’re shored up for winter,” said Whitcomb, who noted that the city also has about 4,000 tons of salt on order through the state and an option to purchase an additional 1,200 tons.

The city typically uses between 4,000 tons and 5,000 tons of salt each winter, he said. However, last winter’s persistent snow caused salt usage to spike to about 7,000 tons.

“It snowed almost every other day. We had three freezing rain events. Those are substantial. They take a lot of resources. It takes more salt to melt the ice,” Whitcomb said. “Last year was a bad one. We hope we don’t have a repeat of it this winter.” Read the current edition here: http://www.server-jbmultimedia.net/CSI-JanesvilleMessengerSunday

The city begins planning its salt order through the state in April.

“We were at the tail end of last season, and we were already asked about our salt needs for the next season,” Whitcomb said.

The price of salt has increased by about 15 percent from last year, he said.

“Whenever there’s a national shortage of salt, it’s based on supply and demand,” Whitcomb said. “When usage is up on a national level, the mines are going 24/7. It’s become a bigger percentage of the cost for snow removal.”

The city of Janesville has 30 vehicles available for plowing and salting. It usually takes about 10 hours to clear the streets of snow, he said.

“It depends on the nature of the event,” Whitcomb said. “I recall in January 2005 it snowed for 40 hours straight. We got about 12 inches of snow, but the fact that it snowed for 40 hours straight, we had to be creative in moving people in and out and giving employees a break while we were trying to make the streets passable.”

During a snowstorm, Rock County Highway Department crews sometimes work 16-hour shifts to clear the roads, said Ben Coopman, Rock County public works director.

“We usually start at 4 a.m. and end at 8 p.m.,” Coopman said. “Depending on the event, we usually pull our crews at 6 p.m. or 8 p.m., then we have them back again at 4 a.m. if needed.”

County officials, too, are keeping an eye on the salt supply, with about 3,000 tons on hand and more on the way, Coopman said.

“We usually figure between 8,000 tons to 9,000 tons a year,” Coopman said. “We usually slow down in February and March, but last year we came close to running out.”

Whitcomb reminded drivers to keep a safe distance from the plows while they are taking care of the roads.

“They’re big trucks. They don’t stop on a dime. I advise drivers to keep a safe distance,” Whitcomb said. “Try not to pass a snowplow. A lot of accidents occur when people try to overtake a plow truck or a salt truck.

“People should be patient. It takes time to plow the roads and for the salt to work. People should allow for extra time.”

In addition to battling the elements, some people have to battle feelings of depression when shorter days are often gray, cold and just plain ugly.

“For some people, reduced light levels make a difference” during the winter, said Dan Desloover, a counselor for Mercy Health System. “There’s probably also a behavior component because people are less active. They’re less engaged in recreational activities. It’s hard to pin down specifically what the cause is.”

Some symptoms of winter blues include feeling depressed, having less energy, isolating yourself from social activities, noticing a lack of interest in normal activities and having difficulty concentrating, Desloover said.

“If those symptoms are going on for more than a couple of weeks, they should probably consult with their physician,” he said. “They can, of course, see a mental health counselor to rule out depression.

“There’s a tendency for people to minimize it and to say, ‘Well, it’s just something that happens to me at wintertime.’ Then, unfortunately, they end up suffering for quite a long time.”

One way to combat the winter blues is to interact with friends and family members more often, Desloover said.

“I think it’s an opportunity for people to increase contact with friends and family and do more socializing indoors, because people do feel more trapped,” he said. “Reaching out to family and having those times with friends and family is great for combating depression.”

People also can increase their winter activity by exercising indoors or participating in outdoor activities.

“Some people go to the gym in the winter as a way to get out and get their activity level up,” Desloover said. “The cold and winter bring out new activities like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, downhill skiing and ice skating. Those are nice opportunities that we have here in Wisconsin.”

And despite how frustrating winter weather can be, people should try to stay calm and accept the fact that there’s nothing we can do to change the weather, he said.

“I think this winter is more anxiety-provoking because last winter was so cold,” Desloover said. “Using a tolerant mindset toward it is helpful. It makes a difference if you deal with it because you can’t change it.”

The winter blues can affect people of all ages and it can be hereditary, he said.

“I don’t know the research of whether it affects males or females more often, but it certainly affects both genders,” Desloover said. “Depression certainly has a hereditary component, so if your family members -- parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles -- have depression, there’s an increased likelihood that an individual would, too.

“In my experience, those who receive treatment for depression, oftentimes in subsequent winters, don’t feel as depressed or seem to do better with the winter.”

For others, getting through winter is a matter of survival. That’s where programs such as the GIFTS Men’s Shelter step in to help. GIFTS offers overnight shelter, supper and breakfast to local men from October through April.

Volunteers at 14 Janesville churches help to host the shelter for a week at a time. Sometimes, members of another GIFTS congregation help at other locations to provide volunteers and food, said GIFTS Director Stephanie Burton.

“Some host sites have enough volunteers where they don’t need assistance,” Burton said. “Other churches aren’t as big as other host sites, so they require assistance.”

Most churches have the capacity to serve about 25 men.

GIFTS posts a schedule of the host sites at the Janesville Police Department, Janesville Mass Transit building, at local hospitals and on its website at Gifts-Shelter.org.

The shelter also includes a resource center, Burton said.

“We have resources that help them work on improving their skills,” she said. “Clients are matched with a mentor, and they work on a life improvement plan and how to make that happen.

“We believe in giving people a hand up and not a hand out.”

For more information, call 608-371-3735 or 608-728-0140.

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