Nearly 200 Illinois communities are scrambling to find road salt after last winter's record low temperatures and snowfall depleted supplies, according to local leaders and state officials who oversee a shared procurement process.
If local public works departments are able to find vendors willing to sell them road salt, the price likely will be much higher -- possibly double what they paid last year.
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Earlier this month, the Illinois Department of Central Management Services informed many city and county officials in charge buying road salt that no vendors responded to their requests for bids.
More than 560 communities participated in the solicitation for road salt bids, said department spokesman Mike Claffey. Of those, 367 communities received bids from salt vendors and 195 did not. The department offered to seek new bids from vendors, while cautioning public works departments to explore other alternatives.
Demand appears to be driving up prices, state officials said. Municipalities that did get bids from vendors are looking at prices ranging from $70 to more than $140 per ton. Last year, the going rate was $55 to $65 per ton.
The shortage of salt has some local officials worried about hoarding. In Winnebago County, Roscoe Village President David Krienke told WIFR-TV in Rockford he hopes "everybody purchases the salt they need" and don't "get greedy."
Others are looking for ways to stretch salt supplies. Lee County Engineer Dave Anderson told the (Dixon) Telegraph the county will mix salt with limestone chips.
"The limestone chips will extend the life of the salt and it will add grit on the roads," Anderson said. "It will provide additional traction in the slippery road conditions."
The joint procurement process is a service the state provides to communities that choose to participate.
"We see it as part of our mission to help local governments procure road salt and other supplies, so that they can benefit from the economies of scale that come from buying in bulk," Claffey said.