Price of road salt worries officials

Published 10:53 am Friday, October 10, 2008

A 400 percent increase in the price of rock salt has some local officials worried about snow removal in the event of a bad winter.

Lawrence County Engineer David Lynd said earlier this year the county requested and was approved to participate in the Ohio Department of Transportation contract for salt purchase, something he has done for the last several years in an effort to save money and get the best salt price possible. When ODOT opened bids, 43 of the 88 county garages, including Lawrence County, did not receive any bids.

When the contract for these counties was rebid Sept. 5, the bid for Lawrence County was $158 a ton.

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If this seems steep, consider that last year, Lawrence County bought its road salt for $41.84 a ton and this year, some counties, mostly in the northern part of the state, got bids for as little as $41.57 a ton.

At least nine counties got bids of under $50 a ton this year. Lynd said he expected some increase, perhaps $50 or $60 a ton, but not such a large jump. Most of the counties that saw the huge bid increases were in the southern part of the state.

“The reason we go through ODOT to bid is we don’t use as much salt as other parts of the state and it is usually better for us,” Lynd said.

Lynd said he has heard a number of reasons why. The hike in salt prices comes at the same time the price of asphalt has doubled as well as theincrease in the price of gasoline and other necessities.

Lynd said it is difficult to stretch his budget to cover all these increases.

“If I buy the salt, I can’t patch the potholes the salt causes next spring,” Lynd said. “It’s not pleasant, either way you go.”

In the meantime, he said he has decided not to buy salt at this price.

He said he plans to make do with his stockpile of 300 tons and mix what he has with gravel when he has to treat roads.

Last winter his garage used 600 tons of salt, though the winter wasn’t particularly harsh. One winter several years ago, he used more than 1,000 tons of salt.

“We’ll do the best we can with what we’ve got,” Lynd said. “I hope everyone will be understanding about what we have to do. There are not any easy choices.”

The Lawrence County Commission agreed Thursday night to send letters to Gov. Strickland and the area’s legislators, asking for their help.

“I wouldn’t mind sending letters to our officials to see what they can do,” Commission President Doug Malone said.

Lynd is sending letters as well.