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County scrambling to find road salt

Scott Seitz2 • Sep 1, 2014 at 11:07 AM

One might be surprised during these last days of August that road salt is on the minds of Huron County officials.

But, that's the case after the county received no bids to supply road salt this winter.

"No one wants to sell it to us," Huron County Engineer Joe Kovach said.

The harsh winter of 2013-2014 has exhausted salt supplies.

The county has 1,500 tons of salt currently in storage. It uses about 3,000 to 4,000 tons per winter, Kovach said.

"There's a salt shortage in the state of Ohio," he added. "I'm on the phone today trying to find salt. The suppliers have used up their stockpiles and raised their prices."

The county paid between $33 and $37 per ton last winter depending on whether it was delivered.

"Mahoning County just paid $146 per ton," Kovach said, adding Portage County is on the hook for more than $100 per ton.

Kovach said Erie County received a price of $91 per ton, but has rejected it.

"Erie County is in the same bind we are in," he said.

"Suppliers are saying they can't honor contracts, they don't have the capacity," Kovach said. "It's happening everywhere, especially down south. We're not alone in this."

Kovach said Huron County usually obtains its salt through salt mines in Lake Erie or Canada.

"I've never seen it this bad," he said.

Kovach said he's approached the Ohio Department of Transportation District 3 to attempt to purchase salt.

Norwalk bought salt at $58.46 per ton through ODOT. Norwalk still paid $22 more per ton than it did a year ago.

Kovach said he's talked to officials in Fort Wayne, Ind. about buying salt at $80 to $90 per ton.

"I don't know if I can even buy it from them," he said.

Kovach said motorists could be in for an adventure this winter if salt remains scarce.

"They surely could be," he said. "This will become a safety issue and political issue. The county commissioners know about this. The salt is bid through them."

The engineer said he plans on contacting state representatives and senators to help with the problem.

Kovach said he knew the price could double or triple.

"Some places are using more grit, beet juice or brine," he said. "We don't have the hardware to use brine.

"If we have to use 75-percent grit, we will," Kovach said.

Grit is obtained through local stone quarries.

"Grit is between $8 and $10 per ton," Kovach said. "I can afford that. I can't afford to pay $100 per ton for salt. Grit helps with traction, but it doesn't melt the ice. Drivers are going to have to drive slow.

"We've got a couple of months to regroup and come up with some solutions," he added.

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