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Morris, Grundy County reassess road salt supply

With snowfall in record amounts in Grundy County this year, road salt use has been extremely high, requiring municipalities to consider how to get through the rest of the winter season.

Bids typically go out in the spring or summer for the next winter’s bulk salt pricing, locking in a guaranteed price for users through June 1 of the next year.

The municipality is required to estimate the amount of road salt they want set aside for their use, the supplier then tells them how much will be set aside for them.

“This year our quota was down by 75 tons,” Jim Gretencord, Morris Public Works director said. “Because we’ve had mild winters, Morton [Salt] set aside 375 tons for us instead of the previous 450 tons we requested.”

Morton Salt is the company Morris uses for its salt supply. This lower quota has Morris running dangerously low on their road salt.

“Starting tomorrow we will be mixing our road salt with salt purchased by the water department to soften the cities water,” Gretencord said Tuesday. “We are happy we are able to access that salt.”

Morris Mayor Richard Kopczick said the city buys extra salt for the cities water treatment and while it’s more expensive than the road salt, there is extra in reserves.

The city currently pays about $68 a ton for the delivered road salt from Morton Salt, and they paid $83.74 a ton for the last delivery of water treatment salt.

Every year the city mixes the road salt with cinders, also known as slag sand, but this year they may need to change the typical mixture to include more cinders to get through the rest of winter.

Gardner Commissioner Mike Serena said the village is in good shape on their salt because of the reserves from last year.

“Last year we used five or six tons of road salt,” Serena said. “This year we’ve already used 10 tons.”

Serena said by changing their salt storage from the previous metal storage shed to the volunteer-built shed they constructed in 2009, they have paid for the cost of the building tenfold in salt cost savings.

He said they started this winter season with 50 to 60 tons left in there and since building the new storage facility they have never used all the salt in storage.

“Our guys are conservative with their salt spreading,” Serena said. “They typically plow and spread the fire station first, the downtown businesses and schools second, and then salt the intersections.”

Grundy County Engineer Craig Cassem said the county has been through a lot of road salt this year already.

“We’re anticipating making it through the year just fine,” Cassem said. “We’ve just received 1,000 tons, bringing our total this year up to about 2,500 tons.”

Cassem said the average winter usage is about 2,000 to 2,500 tons, but he’s guessing this year’s heavy snow fall and icy road conditions will see usage at 3,000 to 3,500 tons.

The county participates in the Joint Purchasing Program through the Illinois Department of Central Management Services, which offers local governments the opportunity to save money by bulk purchasing.

Cassem said the county currently is paying about $50 a ton through Cargill Inc. and the state program.

“It’s been an unprecedented winter across the snow belt,” Mark Klein, spokesperson for Cargill, said. “We’ve been hit by one snow storm after the other.”

He said the snow has been wide spread and a large number of snow falls has affected the use of road salt.

“The huge snowfalls are handled largely by snow plows but the smaller ones are requiring more deicing products,” Klein said. “We’re shipping as fast as we can.”

Klein said he couldn’t speculate as to what the overtime costs and additional shipping costs will do to next year’s salt prices, or if they will have any affect at all.

In addition to the large quantities of salt, local municipalities also are having to look at the budget for overtime and fuel set aside for snow removal.

“Our overtime budget is out the window,” Gretencord said. “We’ve worked every weekend since Christmas.”

He said there has been more than one week when all 15 of his employees have been at 30 hours of overtime, and this week they already are at 10 to 15 hours of overtime before the midweek snow even hits.

Serena said they are facing twice the overtime they saw last year, which was 20 to 25 hours for the season.

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