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.

Wauseon awarded its road salt bid to Morton Salt for $47.50 per ton delivered. Public Service Director Dennis Richardson said the city has contracted to buy as much as 800 tons, the average amount used during a winter.

Last year, Wauseon paid slightly more for salt – about $50 per ton. The city’s salt barn already carries about 300 tons.

Richardson said the bulk safety salt is most effective when used without additives.

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.

A state bid awarded the Village of Archbold a price of $47.25 per ton for Morton Salt. Street Superintendent Jason Martz said it’s a relief from the $71 per ton cost the village paid last year, and the $102 per ton cost in 2014.

“It just falls back to supply and demand like everything else,” Martz said.

The village requested a 500-ton supply for the season, but will take advantage of a contract clause allowing Archbold an additional 50 tons at the same cost.

“This is the lowest price we’ve had in years for road salt. At that price I want to get all I can,” Martz said. He said the price likely won’t be as low next year.

Due to last year’s mild winter, the village has a 300-ton road salt surplus in it’s salt bunker, which has a 1,000-ton capacity.

Swanton has yet to order road salt but would like to purchase at least 120 tons, according to Administrator Rosanna Hoelzle. In June, the village council approved a resolution to participate in the county engineer’s road salt contract, and has requested 150 tons.

As with other county municipalities, the village has a large road salt surplus in storage after a milder winters.

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.