MaineDOT Highway Design Guide

Sand and Salt Building Information

This partial funding program ended in late 2017. It had been around since its creation by the Legislature in 1986. It was jointly administered by MaineDOT and Maine DEP. MaineDOT had been involved in the building and funding perspective and Maine DEP remains involved in the siting and prioritization of sites relative to groundwater impacts of salt. In June 2013, MaineDOT was legislatively directed to work with Maine DEP to develop a plan to bring this 27 -year-old program to an end. The plan was delivered to the Legislature in February, 2013. LD 1817 was created and signed into law by the Governor on April 5, 2014 as emergency legislation. The only remaining towns/cities that were eligible for partial reimbursement were those with Priority 3 sites plus any previously built Priority 5 sites.

Relative to MaineDOT only, the Department provided two types of assistance --- funding for certain municipal or county sites, and technical assistance for designing/constructing a building. Relative to funding, MaineDOT provided partial funding for almost 200 town or county buildings at a state share of almost $14 million since 1986. Relative to technical assistance, we continue to do that because we have plenty of information on building types and their pros and cons, costs, and design features. Before you tackle this issue or form a committee to build your facility, call us and we can help you with your planning process and funding.

For any information on sand/salt facilities, call Pete Coughlan at MaineDOT at 624-3266 or e-mail  Peter Coughlan.

Facility Planning and Design

This information is provided by the MaineDOT as a guideline for a municipality or county to follow when it is in the process of planning, designing, and constructing a facility. These guidelines are typical to most facilities being constructed by Maine towns and cities, but some variances do occur depending on the local needs and desires.

  • Contact this office of Community Services Division at 207/624-3270
  • Visit several building types in the area (we can provide a list) and talk to operators/owners about pros/cons of their building (domes, arches, wood frame, etc.)
  • Decide town’s preferred style and size
  • Call this office if you want a list/advice on design/architect companies*....we even have some sample RFP’s for engineering
  • Contact companies about estimates or RFP’s for design/inspection services
  • Decide on/hire design firm
  • If desired, submit plan to this office for cursory review and comment. We might help you save some money on unnecessary features
  • Make necessary adjustments and advertise project
  • Award contract and commence construction
  • Periodically inspect and document contractor’s work and expenses while project proceeds (eng’g firm usually handles this aspect)
  • At time of FINAL completion, inspect the building
Engineering Advice

Some towns consider NOT hiring a design/architectural firm. The belief that “we can build it cheaper and better” is common. The MaineDOT discourages this practice for several reasons because some towns have actually suffered structural problems in their “homemade” buildings. A sand/salt facility is a public facility which provides long term benefits and engineering the building is a wise investment. Any public agency should see that their building is certified as meeting all applicable building and safety codes by an architect or engineer licensed to practice in Maine.

There are 3 reasons why it’s important to involve a Professional Engineer (PE) or architect in the planning/design/construction of a municipal sand/salt facility (or any other public facility). Two are based in state law and one in practicality. There are 2 state laws that address this issue.

  • One can be found at 32 MRSA Section 1254 and it states that a municipality MUST hire a registered Professional Engineer (PE) for any public work that costs over $100,000 or "creates an undue risk to public safety or welfare" while under construction or when complete. Most sand/salt buildings will cost over that amount and therefore a registered PE is necessary for the design of the facility.
  • The other law can be found at the State of Maine statutes page in section #4 under the Human Rights Act. If the municipal facility is constructed or altered with cost of construction at least $75,000, a design professional must certify that the plans meet the barrier-free standards contained in federal ADA law. This applies to any facility constructed or altered after March 15, 2012.
  • The third reason is that it just makes good sense to have a reputable professional do the design and construction oversight. With public funds at stake, it is still highly recommended that the town hire a registered PE or architect for the facility design. Usually, the PE costs are easily 10% or less of the entire project cost and it's money well spent to ensure quality and longevity of the structure and the best long term use of taxpayers' money.

Before a municipality decides to hire an engineering firm/contractor to design a salt/sand structure, there are several items which should be "itemized" before proposals are received. This will help to compare "apples with apples" when deciding who to hire for the design or construction of a facility. Alternatively, any town should seriously consider a "qualification-based selection". This method assures the best project possible for the taxpayer dollar. Details and sample forms available through this office.

The following is a list of items or "services" which need to be requested from the designer/contractor. Using this checklist will help in the final decision-making process and help to avoid future "add-on" costs during construction:

  • Site review and evaluation
  • Topographic survey
  • Subsurface investigation
  • Develop existing site plan
  • Public meetings
  • Structure Evaluation and Selection
  • Field reviews of other buildings
  • Preliminary Design
  • Site Plan Review
  • Permits
  • Foundation Design
  • Building Design
  • Electrical Design
  • Design Plans
  • Contract Document Development & Printing
  • Bidding/Advertising Services/Bond submissions
  • Bid Opening & Analysis
  • Contract Administration Services
  • Construction Inspection Services
  • Materials Testing (soils, concrete, pavement, building materials, etc.)
  • Post Construction Inspection and Documentation
Advantages to Storing Salt Under Cover

Although salt (sodium chloride) is a valuable material for snow and ice control, its use also causes some harmful side effects. Salt runoff and wind-carried spray can damage or kill plants and trees. Water supplies, especially those from shallow wells within 40 feet of a road may be polluted by excessive salt content. Corrosion damage to motor vehicles is another obvious harmful side effect of salt use.

Close control of salt spreading to avoid excessive application will not only save maintenance funds but will also minimize these harmful side effects. It may also be desirable to use ditching and storm drains to alter present runoff patterns to reduce contamination of wells and roadside vegetation. If this water can flow directly and quickly to reasonably sized streams or rivers, this damage can be minimized. In addition to roadway runoff, leaching of stockpiles also can cause salt pollution problems. Proper storage facilities and control of runoff can minimize the problem. That is why the Maine Legislature enacted the storage facility program in 1987. The cost sharing program ended in 2017.

Maine law also requires the MaineDEP to approve all site locations. All applicants must follow DEP rule (Chapter 574) Whether it’s a new site or moving an old site, it requires DEP review and certain requirements relative to proximity to wells, lateral containment of material and minimal covering.

Because shallow wells, and maybe deep wells, can be polluted by salt, it is possible that a municipality could face unexpected expenses in providing fresh water or drilling new wells for certain buildings. A municipality should be aware of State law Title 23 MRSA 3659 on the “protection of private water supplies”. This law details the procedure for handling well damage claims.

So why should a public works agency construct a bulk salt storage facility ?

There are three answers: economy, availability and convenience.

Bulk salt is the most economical deicing material available.
Salt never loses its ice melting power no matter how long it is stored or how old it is. Salt is already millions of years old when it is mined. Each year thousands of tons of salt are stored and carried over to be used the next year. It is just as effective as though freshly mined or harvested. Neither is there any loss to moisture from the air if salt is stored properly. Salt does not absorb moisture until the humidity exceeds 76 %. Moisture that is absorbed will later evaporate, but there may be a thin crusting on the surface of the stockpile that is easily broken up.

Salt, however, can be lost to precipitation. Stockpiles, whether large or small, should not be left exposed to the elements. A permanent under-roof storage facility is best for protecting salt. If this is not possible, then outside piles should be built on impermeable bituminous pads and covered with one of the many types of temporary covering materials, such as tarpaulin, polyethylene, polyurethane or hypalon. Other waterproofing products may be available too.

There are several reasons why salt should be stored in a roofed enclosure.

  • Salt stored in an outdoor stockpile, if not properly covered and if continuously exposed to moisture, will become lumpy or frozen and difficult to handle and use. These chunks can get discarded and “lost” by some individuals.
  • Inside storage also eliminates the loss of salt dissolved and washed away by precipitation.
  • Wet and caked or lumpy salt is harder to handle with loaders and to move through spreaders.
  • Workers who must climb up onto a truck in the cold and dark or dislodge chunks on a belt or screen risk injuries and worker compensation claims.
  • Salt stored inside is easier to load and spread. It’s dry and flows very well. Talk to any operator of a storage building and they would never go back to outside storage
  • Inside storage eliminates the possibility of contaminating streams, wells or groundwater with salt runoff.
  • Inside storage “contains” the pile whereas an outside pile tends to “spread” across a property.
  • Inside storage reduces unlimited access to a pile from citizens or private contractors.
  • Ultimately, less money is spent on salt due to better control.
  • If left exposed to weather, anti-caking agents can be washed from the outer layer of salt.


This partial state reimbursement program ended in late 2017. There are no longer any state funds to assist municipalities in constructing a facility.

Funding Status

  • Priority 1 towns -- all built and funded.
  • Priority 2 towns -- all built and funded.
  • Priority 3 towns –- all built and funded.
  • Priority 4 towns -- all built and funded. For any Priority 4 town that is considering building a facility in the future, there is no longer any possibility of state MaineDOT funding. However, please call us because we can still provide lots of technical assistance.
  • Priority 5 towns -- those towns which built prior to 1999 were finally reimbursed in early December 2018. All higher Priority towns had to be reimbursed first. For any Priority 5 town that is considering building a facility in the future, there is no longer any possibility of state DOT funding. However, please call us because we can still provide lots of technical assistance.

State Funding History

  • Spring 2014: $3,000,000 for remaining Priority 3 towns and 15 Priority 5 towns.
  • Spring 2013: $1,193,473 for the last nine built Priority 3 towns.
  • Spring 2011: $832,930 for eight Priority 3 towns and the last two Priority 4 towns.
  • Summer 2009: $200,000---for Priority 3 towns of Trenton and Bath
  • Summer 2006: $1 million--- $800,000 for Priority 2 & 3 towns and $200,000 for a few Priority 4 towns
  • Spring 2005: $1 million--- $800,000 for Priority 2 towns and $200,000 for a few Priority 4 towns
  • January 2005: $600,000)--- $480,000 for the remaining Priority 1 towns and $120,000 for a few Priority 4 towns (derived from cost-saving measures and personnel savings within MaineDOT)
  • Fall of 2003: $125,000--- $100,000 for Priority 2 towns and $25,000 for a Priority 4 town and $77K for town of Patten
  • Spring of 2001: $1.1 million---- $880,000 for Priority 2 towns and $220,000 for a couple Priority 2 and 4 towns
"Built" Priority 5 Towns

The last Priority 3 town was reimbursed in late November 2018 which allowed the Department to reimburse the following Priority 5 towns in early December 2018:

  • Skowhegan
  • Eliot
  • Unity
  • South Portland
  • Wiscasset
  • Bridgton
  • Millinocket
  • Rockport
  • Scarborough
  • Morrill
  • Paris
  • Eddington
  • Westfield
  • Freeport
  • Fort Fairfield

These towns built prior to 1999 and, per statute, had sent their paperwork to the department prior to November 1, 1999. This order was determined by the date when MaineDOT received the final documentation from each town.