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breaking news

Greene County engineer: Preparing for winter roads ‘biggest gamble’

Published: Saturday, January 12, 2019 @ 2:00 AM

            Greene County Engineer Bob Geyer said they are trying to conserve salt supplies as much as possible this year as bulk salt prices have jumped nearly 50 percent to $92 per ton. GABRIELLE ENRIGHT/STAFF
Greene County Engineer Bob Geyer said they are trying to conserve salt supplies as much as possible this year as bulk salt prices have jumped nearly 50 percent to $92 per ton. GABRIELLE ENRIGHT/STAFF

Officials believe local salt supplies are sufficient to treat the roads during winter weather this season, despite prices for bulk orders increasing more than 50 percent in some areas.

Road crews geared up late last week for the season’s first significant snowfall predicted this weekend.

In Greene County, Engineer Bob Geyer said they still have salt left over from last year, which was bought at approximately $48 per ton. A new order of salt, at a cost of $92 per ton, is expected to be delivered by Cargill on Monday, Geyer said.

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“This year it’s gold. At $92 a ton, it’s high-dollar stuff,” he said. “Even when this entire barn is filled with salt, the goal is to conserve it. The weather will determine how quickly it’s used.”

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At the state level, bulk salt prices increased by approximately 66 percent on average, according to Brian Cunningham, Ohio Department of Transportation District 8 spokesman.

Cunningham said a price increase is fairly common after a “heavy use year,” like last season which included snow events in April and May.

“Last year I think it was the highest usage we’ve had in a decade,” Cunningham said. “That tends to bump the prices up statewide.”

Geyer said preparing for hazardous roads is the single biggest expense during a normal winter season. At this season’s salt prices, the county may have to spend as much as $750,000 to maintain the supply.

“This is the biggest gamble as a county engineer or a transportation engineer. What’s the winter going to be, and how much money do I need to set aside? You just never know how much you need for overtime and how much you need for salt,” he said.

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The price of bulk salt is different for each of Ohio’s 88 counties, as factors such as location can make a difference.

According to ODOT records, salt was purchased in Butler County last year at $48.80 per ton, and this year the rate is $59.54 per ton. In Warren County, the rate was $50.18 per ton last year, and $69.66 per ton this year, according to the records.

Geyer said his department will work to stretch the salt supply as much as possible by mixing it with the de-icing product Beet Heat as well as soft grit limestone.

“Depending on what happens through the year, if things get really tight and we use up all our allotted 7,500 tons at $92 (a ton), then we’ll starting mixing with soft limestone grit to extend it and again, up the Beet Heat,” he said. “If it gets bad like it did a few years ago, and we don’t have any salt, we’ll put down straight grit and up the Beet Heat.”