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updated: 7/24/2014 4:44 PM

Elgin rushes to buy road salt

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With prices climbing and competition for supplies likely to be keen, the city of Elgin swiftly approved spending nearly $1 million to buy about 10,000 tons of road salt for next winter.

The measure was approved Wednesday at the city council's committee of the whole meeting, followed right after by formal council approval.

The state of Illinois was unable to solicit bids from salt suppliers for this winter, so about 500 municipalities throughout the state that relied on the state's joint cooperative purchasing agreement now have to scramble to find vendors, Elgin Assistant City Manager Rick Kozal said.

The state made the announcement a week ago, and the city quickly moved to solicit bids from vendors, Kozal said.

"This has been a true emergency, and in this case we want to make sure we're beating our partners to the salt supply line," City Manager Sean Stegall said.

Representatives of the joint purchasing program at the Illinois Department of Central Management Services did not respond to requests for comment.

Prices this year are "substantially higher" than last year, Kozal said. The city agreed to pay about $89 per ton of salt, compared to $54 per ton last year. Some of the bids that came in quoted prices of more than $100 per ton, he added.

The jump in prices is a result of last winter's brutal cold, which depleted everyone's reserves, Public Works Director Greg Rokos said.

"Everyone is ordering 25 to 50 percent more salt they ordered before," he said.

The city had budgeted $544,000 in gas tax revenues to purchase salt in this year's budget, and will be using an additional $455,000 it received through the Illinois Jobs Now! state capital program, Kozal said.

"The city will be able to make the salt purchase without having to remove any other scheduled programs from its budget," he said.

The city used 12,700 tons of salt last year, and has about 3,300 tons remaining, Rokos said.

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