Hold the salt; Less de-icer being bought due to last year's mild winter


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Originally Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2012, 5:45 pm
Last Updated: Nov. 17, 2012, 12:07 am
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By Leon Lagerstam, llagerstam@qconline.com

Orders and prices for road salt have fallen this year, as local public works departments prepare for winter snow and ice.

Because of milder weather last winter,everyone had a surplus of salt, and cut orders for this year, East Moline maintenance services director Dave Lambrecht said.

''This year, we purchased about half of our normal order, and the rate we got represented a savings of about $5 per ton,'' he said.

Savings in the Quad-Cities area ranged from about 60 cents less per ton in Davenport to $11 less per ton in Silvis.

The city of Moline ordered 1,500 tons of salt at $58.74 per ton this year, municipal services director Doug House said. That's 68 cents a ton cheaper than last year, and a total cost of $88,110.

Moline normally uses about 5,500 tons of salt a year, but used only about half that last year, Mr. House said. With about 3,500 tons of left over, and about 500 tons in reserve, 1,500 tons ''is all we had capacity to store.''

The city is building a new salt dome that will be able to hold another 2,400 tons, and allow Moline to store more salt bought at lower prices, Mr. House said.

Moline is part of a local consortium that buys road salt at lower bulk prices, Mr. House said. Davenport heads the local group, and other members are Bettendorf, Port Byron, Princeton, Clinton and Muscatine.

Rock Island, Milan, East Moline, Silvis, Rapids City, Hampton, Rock Island County, and some other outlying areas order salt supplies jointly through a state consortium called Central Management Services.

Mr. House said Moline stopped participating in the state consortium in 2006, when salt prices hit $160 a ton.

''Our pricing has been as low as $39 a ton, and then we had a shortage about three years ago, when the price hit an outrageous $130 a ton,'' Silvis city administrator Jim Grafton said. ''We paid $73.46 per ton last year. This year we paid $62.05 per ton.

''Fewer storms last winter meant we were able to carry over a lot of product,'' Mr. Grafton said. ''We have an estimated 800 tons of material that would handle six to eight storms, depending on their severity.''

The agreement with Central Management Services allows consortium members to buy 30 percent more or less than ordered, Mr. Grafton said.

That agreement helped Rock Island save money last year, because it didn't have to buy all the 4,000 tons of salt it ordered, public works director Bob Hawes said.

''Our range has been from 2,000 tons to 5,200 tons of salt, so we budget for 4,000 tons every year,'' he said. ''We do have 2,800 tons in stock right now, so if we have a normal winter, we won't need any additional salt.''

He said Rock Island paid $62.05 a ton for salt last year.

Davenport keeps 11,000 tons of road salt on hand, ''a historical number that seems to have worked well for us for the last decade or so,'' public works director Mike Clark said. ''Because of the mild winter last year, we didn't have to purchase as much to replenish our supplies.''

Davenport ordered 3,500 tons of salt this year, at $59.60 a ton, which was 60 cents a ton cheaper than last year, he said.

Bettendorf ordered 3,000 tons of salt at $58.59 per ton, public works director Brian Schmidt said.'"We have, in our coffers, 10,200 tons of salt available, plus 4,500 tons of supplemental salt if we need it.''

The 2010-2011 winter was a bad one for Bettendorf, he said. '"We used 9,800 tons of salt that year.

''We also have what we call a 'brine-extreme machine,'' he said. '"We have the capacity to provide 60 to 70 gallons of salt brine a minute, and we have a tank of calcium chloride and a tank of agricultural by-products such as beet juice that we can blend and use as anti-icing mixture.''

Rock Island also uses a mixture of calcium chloride and beet juice for anti-icing and to treat roads before a snow storm, Mr. Hawes said. ''We use around 20,000 gallons of it at $1 a gallon. You put it on roads right before a storm starts. It evaporates quickly and leaves a type of residue which prevents snow from bonding to the pavement..''

It also cuts salt usage by 10 percent, Mr. Hawes said.

Moline also pre-treats roads with beet juice, which Mr. House said ''gives us an edge. Salt stops working at 8 degrees,'' he said. ''Beet juice will take you down to the minus-20 to -30 ranges.''

Snow-removal efforts continue to become more scientific and technical, Mr. Clark said.

''Over the years, we have been working with the American Public Works Association and involved in their training programs with an eye of reducing the amount of salt we use,'' he said. ''We are trending downward each of the last three years, and we will trend down slightly again this year. depending on how much snow we get.''

For example, salt trucks now are equipped to calibrate amounts of salt spread from 100 pounds to 1,000 pounds of salt per lane mile, ''so we're not just throwing salt around. There is an exact science to all of this,'' Mr. Clark said.

''Our entire plow team has had extensive training, and our supervisors have had advanced training,'' Mr. Clark said.

''We're ready, and I personally believe the more prepared you are, the better chance you have of not being overwhelmed. My note to Mother Nature is 'bring it on. We got it covered.''









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