St. Charles has become the latest casualty of a road salt shortage for next winter.
As communities begin preparations for the upcoming winter, many are finding their traditional salt suppliers aren't willing to do business with them. Companies that are still inclined to sell salt to local communities are doing so at budget-busting premium prices.
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St. Charles officials say they were told by the state that its bid on behalf of more than 600 municipalities on road rock salt was rejected for about 195 of them. St. Charles is one of the 195. So are Elgin, Palatine and the Kane County Forest Preserve District.
A state memo offers this explanation: "The severity across the nation of the past season, with its high frequency of snow and ice events through late fall, winter and early spring, has severely depleted vendor and manufacturer supply to a degree that is very likely impacting the availability of road salt through normal channels."
Neither of St. Charles' traditional salt suppliers (Morton Salt and Cargill Salt) would provide quotes to the city for salt. Quotes with other vendors ranged from $93.75 per ton to $156 per ton. The going rate per ton last year was $55 to $65 per ton, according to The Associated Press.
The city's salt domes are "essentially empty," according to the St. Charles staff memo, which recommended approving the $93.75-per-ton quote from Elgin-based Central Salt LLC. The city needs a minimum of 7,000 tons. That comes to a cost of $656,250. The price tag is $206,000 more than the city's budget for salt.
Aldermen approved the cost.
The price is slightly cheaper than a deal Kane County Forest Preserve District commissioners are expected to ink next week with Central Salt. The district, which wants 440 tons, received a quote of $95.75 from the company. That's a cost of $38,530, which is $13,530 more than the district's budget.
Elgin City Council members signed one of the best deals in the area. They agreed to pay $89 per ton for about 10,000 tons. That's a cost of nearly $1 million, which is $455,000 more than its budget for salt.