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Ongoing road salt shortage means bigger expense for county

Salt supplies are down after our long, cold winter, so prices are going up, County Highway Superintendent Tim Hens told county legislators Tuesday.

American Rock Salt in Mt. Morris is increasing its prices by 8 percent, so the county will be spending $2.96 per ton in 2014-15.

"It's nothing we can't manage," Hens told the Public Service Committee.

One way the highway department is handling the increased expenditure on salt is cutting back on road work this summer.

Hens said the county went from a surplus of salt at the start of the 2013-14 winter (after two consecutive mild winters) to currently storing only about 1/5 the total amount of salt the county will likely need this winter.

That means the county will need to spend $25,000 to $30,000 before the start of winter just to get even.

That's after going over budget by about $25,000 in salt last winter, when cold weather carried into spring.

Hens has to shift spending priorities to keep up with the salt demand, he said.

A few years ago, Hens said he regularly budgeted $115,000 for salt, but last year, when the county had built surpluses, the budget was only about $50,000. In the coming year, he will budget again for at least $115,000.

Legislator Bob Bausch said he's heard from private contractors that they are being put on an allotment system by American Rock Salt for salt as the company makes salt deliveries to municipalities a priority. Hens said he's heard the same thing.

Doug Yeomans
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Has anyone driven by the American Rock Salt facility lately? I have, and the salt is piled higher than I've ever seen it. It's pile up to and around the conveyor housing and it's the longest pile I've ever seen there. A bit over a week ago I drove to Hornell passing the salt mine twice, and marveled at how much salt was stockpiled. We won't need salt for another 4 months or more, so what's not adding up here?

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