Township considers buying salt while prices are low

CALCUTTA – Road Foreman Scott Barrett advised St. Clair Township Trustees on Tuesday to consider approving the purchase of several hundred tons of road salt for next winter, while prices now are relatively low

Barrett also reported that after nearly exhausting the township’s nearly 1,000-ton salt supply, relief has finally arrived in form of a 100 tons delivered earlier this week.

Much of the country was hit with a road salt shortage this winter as unusually bad weather used up stockpiles and caused demand to skyrocket. Barrett reported to trustees throughout the winter about his repeated attempts to replenish the townships salt supplies as one winter storm after another rolled through the area.

Barrett says he not sure why it was so difficult for the township to get an order filled during the last few months. He noted he has received conflicting accounts from the township’s salt provider and the trucking company which delivers the salt about who is to blame. Each company blamed the other for slow response to requests, he says. A salt delivery which arrived this Monday marks the first time in months the township has been able to replenish its supplies.

Barrett explained that before each winter, townships and municipalities enter bids for salt with salt companies. He notes that it can be tricky to know how much salt to request as it is hard to predict the severity of a winter beforehand. Each bidder is given a quota based on their bid. The township’s quota this year was about 480 tons. Barrett says that the township had nearly used up that amount, in addition to the roughly 400 tons left over from last year’s mild winter. For next winter, trustees say they hope to put in a bid for about 600 tons of salt.

Barrett told trustees Tuesday the township’s salt supplier has lifted a cap which restricts the amount which the township can order. He also noted that current salt prices, about $37 per ton, are as low as he can recall in recent memory. He asked trustees to consider purchasing salt now before next winter arrives and the price increases.

“It’s a really good price, we might want to fill the (township salt) bin before summer,” Barrett told trustees.

To conserve salt, Barrett say his crews use a salt mixture which also contains 1g ash and number 8 slag. He notes that township crews have to use this kind of mixture on chip and seal roads because using only salt erodes the road surface.

“People think we just plow roads and dig ditches but there’s a science to it,” said Barrett.

Barrett hopes the 100 tons of road salt, which arrived this week at the township garage, will make it to the end of this winter but he is hesitant to make any guarantees.

“I’d like to say ‘yeah we’re done’ but you can’t be sure with the winter we’ve had,” said Barrett, noting that snow is forecast for the weekend.