Cheaper road salt this year a relief

By David J. Coehrs -

Fulton County municipalities will pay a more modest price for road salt this winter season, a relief from costs that spiked upwards of $100 or more per ton during a nationwide shortage two years ago.

Fulton County Engineer Frank Onweller said Compass Minerals, formerly known as North American Salt, has sold the county 2,400 tons at a cost of $42.19 per ton. It’s a marked difference from the $54.87 per ton paid to Morton Salt last year and $95.50 per ton from North American Salt in 2014.

The county will keep 1,600 tons for itself and divide the remaining 800 tons between its contracted customers. They include the villages of Metamora, Lyons, Delta, and Swanton and the townships of Chesterfield, Clinton, Dover, Franklin, Fulton, Pike, and Royalton.

Fulton County’s contract with Compass Minerals stipulates the county must purchase at least 80 percent of the road salt it requested, but no more than 120 percent of the amount.

Onweller said the dip in price can be attributed in part to the mild winter the region experienced last year.

The county’s salt shed currently holds a surplus of 1,500 tons, plenty to handle a potentially rough winter when added to this year’s purchase, he said.

When extreme low temperatures hit and hamper the efficacy of road salt, county workers mix in calcium chloride.

Delta Administrator Brad Peebles expected a salt price of $50 per ton this year, so he was pleased the cost was considerably less. The village ordered 50 tons which will be added to a 100-ton surplus, the result of a mild winter.

“With the surplus we have on hand, I’m confident we’ll have an adequate amount for the season,” Peebles said.

For the 2016-17 winter, Swanton entered into an agreement with the county engineer’s office. Swanton would like to purchase at least 120 tons of road salt, according to Administrator Rosanna Hoelzle.

As with other county municipalities, the village has a large road salt surplus in storage after a milder winters. Swanton currently has about 180 tons in stock.

“Typically we do not have that much in storage but with the mild winter we had last year the village did not utilize as much,” said Hoelzle. “With the reports of a harsher winter this year we anticipate using more than last year.”

In truth, when a salt shortage is declared it doesn’t necessarily mean there is one, said Lori Roman, president of the Florida-based Salt Institute.

“When you have severe weather in a region, and that region has not planned for a severe winter, then everyone orders at the same time for a replenish,” she said. “They end up having lead time. Essentially, that’s what often happens when you have a more severe winter.”

Roman said there is plenty of salt underground. “It’s getting it out of the ground and where it needs to go when everybody is replenishing at the same time,” she said.

She recommends that municipalities begin the winter season with a full year’s supply of road salt, basing their need on a severe winter scenario rather than an average winter.

“That’s how they can prevent a shortage,” Roman said.

By David J. Coehrs

David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.

David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.