Road Salt Supplies Drying Up

Daily Globe Staff Reporter

SHELBY - The main issue addressed during the Utilities and Streets Committee meeting on Thursday afternoon was the concern of obtaining salt for the upcoming winter months.

Deputy Director of Public Service John Ensman updated committee members on the recent status of rock salt for 2014-2015.

"As we look at the upcoming salting season, supplier inventories are low," Ensman reported. "Townships, municipalities, and counties are trying to locate a reasonable price for rock salt for the upcoming winter season. Some of the salt suppliers are not quoting at this time," said Ensman.

A 2014-15 Salt Purchase Questionnaire was sent out by the county to determine how much salt would be needed for the upcoming winter season. The term estimating the amount of salt Shelby would need would last from October 1, 2014 to October 1, 2015.

"This would be a Cooperative Plan through the city of Shelby and the Richland County Board of Commissioners," Ensman said. "The city will submit a requested tonnage of rock salt to the Richland County Engineer and this year (the city) submitted 1,600 tons for our requirement for the upcoming season."

In the past, Ensman explained, the county would advertise for rock salt bids. During the 2012-13 season, bids were at $48.56 cost per ton; in 2013-14 bids were $38.04 cost per ton. Ensman said for the 2014-15 season, no bids have been received.

"Currently we have no salt agreement for the 2014-15 season," Ensman said. "We are working hard to find a supplier. I made direct contact by leaving a message with Morton Salt. They do have a rock salt manufacturing plant in Ohio. I have not heard back from them yet."

Mayor Marilyn John stated the information regarding salt needed to be explained to area residents.

"It is something that I think we need to get information out to our residents," John said. "Basically, salt quantities are going to be low and that is not just here in Shelby. We are probably in a better position than most other cities and townships across the county and area. There are some guesstimates right now on this coming winter that we will be receiving as much snow, if not more, than last year. That was according to the Farmer's Almanac," John stated.

Project Coordinator Joe Gies explained the Richland County Engineer's office said they are working with their County Engineer's Association to figure out possible solutions.

"I talked to Mansfield's engineer and they are opening their bids on September 22," Gies said. "ODOT opened up bids for themselves, but from what I understand it was in $140 (per) ton range. It is simple economics with supply and demand."

Ensman explained what the city can do to move forward with this issue.

"Last year we put in a bid for 1,600 tons and we actually received 1,800 tons," Ensman said. "So, we were fortunate enough to get the extra 200 tons at that lower price. Last year, we used 2,100 tons of salt, and our current bin status is 1,200 tons."

Last year, Ensman reported the city ordered 200 tons in December, 700 tons in January, and 900 tons in February to replenish the stock. The budget for salt in 2013-14 was $80,000 and last year the total amount spent was $68,472 for 1,800 tons of salt.

John asked if there was anything left for the city to order from last year and Ensman explained there was not.

"We actually called Sandusky where the stock pile is sitting. There are 300 tons available there but we have already exceeded our limitation on this. The tonnage that is sitting in Sandusky right now is $110 a ton," Ensman stated.

Gies added if there is another harsh winter this year as there was last year, the same issues will occur next year with salt availability.

"Last year was a problem not because of the actual snow fall number, but how the snow fell," Noted committee member Nathan Martin. "It was spread out and we were constantly having to salt. We could theoretically have more snow fall this year and actually use less salt depending on how the snow falls. That is what hurt us last year."

Ensman explained plows are used generally when snowfall hits three inches. However, plowing procedures could be changed to when snow falls reach an inch to an inch and a half.

"If we can get out there and at least get the snow off the road and then we can let the sun melt it off," Ensman said.

Ensman stated ways to conserve the salt supply through the 2014-15 season. Some of those ways to conserve salt included salting hills, bridges, safety service areas, and schools only as needed.

"Regarding secondary roads, we are discussing just salting the intersections only. Main Street, Mansfield Avenue, and Gamble Street will continue with intermittent salting. This means we will go every two to three pole lengths and throw salt. These procedures should help with conserving salt quite a bit," Ensman said.

Ensman explained there is another option to salting which included applying grit to city roads.

"We will consider it in some of the areas, but we are really not in favor of this mainly because of the storm sewers and the expenditures that come along with grit," said Ensman.

John explained the city would need to make area schools within the city aware of the issue, as well as area businesses and employers.

"This isn't just a problem in Shelby, it is a problem throughout the county and other areas," explained John.

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