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Local towns assess salt use this winter

SPRINGVILLE — Heavy snowfall and cold temperatures this winter have been frustrating for many residents who have found themselves paying expensive heating bills, constantly having to clear off cars or remove snow from the driveway. Winter has been an even bigger headache for local highway departments attempting to clear the roads for those cars to use.

On top of that struggle, many towns around the Northeast are running low on rock salt and are struggling to get more of it.

“Many towns ordered their [rock salt] shipments based off of last year’s winter and now they’re running out,” said Town of Concord Highway Supervisor Dennis Dains at a recent town board meeting. Last winter was mild compared to this season and, as the snow keeps falling, salt mines cannot get the snow-melting mineral out of the ground fast enough.

The exact contracts between highway departments and salt providers vary, but in West Valley, Colden and Concord, the salt contracts state that the departments may receive up to 20 percent over their quoted amount, at no addition cost per ton of salt.

Colden Highway Supervisor Paul Clarkson explained his department’s contract further. “I have a contract for 1,000 tons of salt. I can go up to 100 percent of my quote, so I could get 2,000 tons, but after 20 percent over my quoted amount, I have to pay additional money.

“So, I can order up to 1,200 tons of salt without any additional fees,” said Clarkson. He added that Colden has used between 1,100 and 1,200 tons of salt so far this year, meaning that town has at least 800 more tons to work with, for the remainder of the season.

“It’s going to be close,” said Ashford Highway Supervisor Tim Engels, speaking on whether his department will go over its contracted amount. Engels said he was confident that, although it may go over the quoted amount, his town would not be reaching the 120 percent mark.

Things will be closer in the town of Concord, but Dains told the town board that the department should be safe to cover the roads in Concord and Springville, for the rest of the winter.

“I’ve spoken with both of [Concord’s] salt providers and I have been told that we are guaranteed for 130 percent of our quoted amount,” said Dains. “Right now we’re running at about 100 percent.”

Dains noted that last year, the town did go up to the 120 percent mark, and the department will be conserving salt for the rest of the season, to be sure the department will make it through the winter.
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