September 13, 2008

Search Continues for Road Salt

By JIMMY NESBITT Courier & Press staff writer 464-7501 or [email protected]

The Public Works Board still is searching for a road salt supplier to fill the city's reserve for the winter.

Ed Ziemer, director of the city's Department of Transportation and Services, said Thursday he met with representatives of Mulzer Crushed Stone Inc. about a week ago and discussed purchasing salt through that company. Ziemer said he hopes to receive a response from Mulzer by the end of the month.

Last winter's heavy snow and ice storms created a regional shortage of road salt, causing prices to rise. The board opened bids from five salt suppliers at an Aug. 27 meeting, but because of the shortage, none of the companies would commit to a contract to supply the city.

The city has enough salt on hand to treat a moderate snowfall. The transportation and services department typically spends around $85,000 a year on 3,000 tons to 5,000 tons of salt.

Meanwhile in Illinois, officials of several cities have asked the state's attorney general to look into why road salt prices have increased two to three times over last year's prices.

Oak Park Village Manager Tom Barwin said with Illinois communities being charged far more than their counterparts in neighboring states, there may be some market manipulation going on. Emergency salt supplies were depleted by last winter's storms, causing high demand in the Chicago region this season. Salt suppliers say the increased size of orders is behind the price increases.

According to Oak Park officials, the village used about 7,000 tons of salt at a cost of about $220,000 last year. Barwin said this year, that same amount will cost $800,000.

Spokeswoman Natalie Bauer says the Illinois attorney general's office does not have jurisdiction over pricing unless it becomes an issue during a natural disaster.

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