An $800,000 expansion of the salt storage facility in Glen Ellyn is being proposed as the best solution to prevent a "snow emergency," after the village nearly ran out of salt in recent winters.
Public Works Director Julius Hansen, who first proposed the project at a November workshop, shared more information at Monday's village board meeting.
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Hansen, who said his department came close to running out of salt in 2007 and 2008, explained that during a typical snow storm about 100 tons of salt is used. On average the department uses 2,000 tons per year, but the storage facility currently can only hold 800 tons.
It has forced staff to scramble for emergency purchases at much higher costs to keep the roads clear of snow and ice. In the winter of 2007-2008, for example, cost came to an extra $36,000 when salt prices jumped from $40 per ton to $95 per ton.
"A snow emergency would be frequent snow events, a breakdown in the supply chain. When those two things converge we have an emergency," Hansen said. "People have to reduce speed, reschedule things, perhaps not go places they would frequently go until we salt. We don't want to be put in that vulnerable position."
The existing salt storage area could be converted into vehicle storage, with a secure evidence storage area for the police included.
"One of the problems we have is too many vehicles sitting outside," Hansen said. "There's no room inside."
Two other options that were considered to resolve the salt storage issue were going to a satellite facility within the village, or leasing from an existing municipality. Regarding the satellite facility, Hansen said there would be transportation issues and ultimately would not be cost effective.
The village considered a partnership with Lombard, which recently built a new salt storage facility, but Hansen said the earliest it could lease "would maybe next year." College of DuPage was also approached.
"But they were asking me if they could store salt in our facility," Hansen said. "Talking 30-40 years down the line, (leasing) wouldn't be cost-effective in the long run."
The village had saved $250,000 in the motor fuel tax fund for the purposes of constructing a salt storage building over the last two years. Estimates put it at a $250,000 project in July when architectural services were approved, but village staff said that figure was a rough estimate from early in the year when staff thought it would be possible to build a new stand-alone facility.
Since then, it's been decided that there isn't space in the village for a new building and architects have come up with much higher price ranges for the conversion of the current salt storage area.
Officials now say the project would be funded with money from motor fuel tax collections and the village's capital projects budget.
Glen Ellyn resident Cam Page spoke out in favor of the project.
"I understand money is tight," Page said. "I think this should be considered not so much for the money, but for life safety. Winter streets scare the heck out of me. There are projects out there that affect a block, maybe a quarter of town. Bad streets affect everybody."
Hansen said a bid opening could be done by March or April.