Cost of road salt more than doubles over last winter

By BOB OLIVER
Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — Winter isn’t here yet, but the City Council gave a cold reception to news that the price of road salt is more than doubling this year.

The council approved the increasing of the city’s contract for salt from $347,680 to the new total of $787,680 for the upcoming winter at its Sept. 23 meeting.

“I know that the price of salt is up, but this is a huge increase,” Councilman David Bazzy said.

Bazzy and Councilman Michael Sareini asked Department of Parks and Recreation Director Jim Murray if any other vendors had been called to try to get a lower price, but Murray said that out of the four he called, only two responded and neither had the amount of salt the city needed.

Murray said the city usually uses about 7,000 tons a year to keep the roads salted, but last year dumped 11,500 tons.

He also said the city was expecting the price to increase a bit because last winter was so severe, but that they didn’t expect it to go up so much.

“The price went up more than $40 per ton,” Murray said. “Last year, salt was $32 a ton and this year it will be a little more than $74. That’s a huge increase, but there’s a big salt shortage this year.”

Murray said the city places its order through the Michigan Department of Transportation’s Mi-Deal program, which allows it to place a hold on a certain amount of salt to use throughout the season.

“Through Mi-Deal we commit to 70 percent of the salt that we order, so for us that is 7,000 tons,” Murray said. “The other 3,000 tons we don’t have to commit to, but we can purchase it and use it if we need it. That’s one of the advantages of the Mi-Deal, you know the salt is there.”

He said the amount of salt used has been reduced by the city because it uses a mixture of the salt and water to create a brine, which sticks to the road better when dropped.

“We’re using 40 to 60 percent less salt then we used to,” Murray said. “We only use bulk salt on sidewalks. The rest is brine.”

Murray also said the city has asked around for lower prices but many smaller salt distributors have already sold out.

“Some municipalities have gotten better deals, but the smaller distributors don’t handle the same amount of volume and sell out quicker,” Murray said. “We have to make sure we have the salt we need.”

(Bob Oliver can be reached at boliver@bewickpublications.com.)