VANDALIA — The calendar may say August, but Vandalia officials are already casting a wary eye to the upcoming winter road season, and with good reason.
Bids were recently opened for road salt by the Southwest Ohio Purchasers for Government (SWOP4G) and the news was not good.
Out of six potential bidders, only three companies, Morton, American, and Detroit submitted bids. More alarming is that of the 250,000 tons of salt on the bid, the companies only priced 63,000 tons, or around 25 percent of the bid.
There was sticker shock as well - salt that cost the City of Vandalia $51.94 a ton in 2013 was priced at $114.50 a ton, over 120 percent higher than a year ago.
Vandalia currently has about 1,000 tons of salt on hand which is the maximum able to be stored in the city’s salt barn. In a typical winter, the city uses about 1,800 tons, but last season the city used 2,800 tons.
Public Works Director Rob Cron said the city will begin conserving salt at the outset of winter weather in 2014.
“We have to plan for the possibility we may not get any more salt than we have now,” said Cron. “Our plan is to get more salt when we have room - we will get as much as we can.”
Cron said that the salt conservation plan the city implemented in the middle of the season last year due to salt shortages will be in effect for the entire winter season.
“We will still plow like we always do,” said Cron. “We will try to limit salting to critical areas like hills, curves, intersections, and main roads. Where we do salt we will use a little less.”
According the SWOP4G, many cities ordered salt early this spring because they wanted to go into the season with full barns and wanted to fill them under the 2013-14 contract price. Other cities order twice or three times as much salt as normal. As a result, salt companies are still fulfilling those orders.
“Until these commitments are met and the salt companies’ stockpiles are replenished, salt is at a premium,” says a document from the SWOP4G. “Salt may be more readily available later in the season, but it depends on the severity of the winter and whether the salt companies can efficiently bring salt into the area stockpiles.”