The beautiful weather we had the last few weekends made it hard to think of snow and all the issues it brings with it. The snow will fly and area municipalities have been getting prepared for the upcoming winter, but not without sticker shock over salt prices.

Last year, local municipalities in the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) Purchasing Consortium paid $27 per ton of salt and this year the price has soared to above $100 per ton. In fact, if a municipality was part of the ODOT Purchasing Consortium, then they were lucky, they are locked in at $108.01 per ton for this year. Others, who were not part of the consortium could see prices at $140 a ton or even higher.

The soaring prices are blamed on the supply and demand. Last year’s hard winter increased the demand which has given salt companies a limited supply. Even though they have continued to operate the mines at full capacity, including weekends, they are still struggling to keep up with the demand as communities try to ensure they have enough salt for the season.  According to Dane Roth, Ketchum Public Relations for Morton Salt, “Salt prices are determined by a complex system that is dependent on a variety of factors including, but not limited to the availability of salt supply in a given season, the time a community submits their bid, production costs and costs to source the salt from points that may be outside normal channels such as international destinations, and the freight cost to deliver salt.” All these factors determine what a municipality will pay for salt.

Each year, a municipality will estimate how much salt they will need and order accordingly, however they must take 90% of what they estimate and can use no more than 110 % of the estimate. Last year, when area municipalities exceeded their estimate, they had to go outside the state to purchase salt. This year they will probably do the same, especially if we have a winter like last year.

Many local communities have adjusted their budgets and ordered the same amount of salt they always have, while others have chosen to order less salt and mix the salt with grit, sand or cinders. Some municipalities, like Garrettsville Village were able to adjust their budgets to absorb the soaring prices and order the same amount of salt they always order, while smaller municipalities like Windham have no wiggle room for the inflated cost, so they have adjusted their salt usage by mixing in grit or sand. Townships are in the same boat, some were able to adjust their budgets, while most have chosen to reduce their salt usage and mix it with more grit. This could cause roads to be in a state that one hasn’t seen in a long time.

This winter, motorists will have to slow down, and use caution especially on the some township and some village streets, as many will be using less salt. If we have a hard winter, some areas will only be salting the intersections, hills, and dangerous curves. Motorist will also have to deal with dirty cars. The residue from sand, grit and cinders will leave motorists making more trips to the car wash if they want to have a clean car.