Northern suburbs confront severe shortage of road salt
No suppliers willing to bid on Lake and McHenry Counties
By Tara Malone and Carolyn Starks
Chicago Tribune reporters
11:10 PM CDT, August 21, 2008
As summer nears its final stretch, many cities and towns across the
suburbs are stuck in a very wintry, administrative snowdrift:
They have no
road salt, supply is tight and prices are through the roof.
and public works officials in Lake and McHenry
Counties called emergency
meetings this week to determine how best to
procure salt before the first
winter storm. Demand for de-icing salt is
keen in the Chicago region, driven
higher by the severity of last winter's
storms that depleted emergency salt
supplies and spring floods that
reduced salt mining.
"The reason everyone
is worrying about it now in August is because
there is no reserve," said
Susan Hopfer, spokeswoman for the
Department of Central Management Services,
the state's officemanagement
agency. "That first snowstorm is going to hit,
and there's no
The department has not been able to find a supplier
willing to bid on Lake and McHenry Counties after twice seeking
said. Communities in other parts of Illinois also remain without salt suppliers,
The organization on Tuesday offered many local governments a
choice: Continue to work through the state's joint
purchasing plan to find
salt while knowing costs could top $145 a ton—more than three times last year's
negotiate for a regional distributor on their own. Agencies have
until 5 p.m. Friday to decide.
"We've never really had a situation like
this," said Ken Kennedy, assistant public works director in Wilmette. He
the North Shore town at least has a state commitment for salt, though
officials have not been told how much or at what
cost. "This could be a big
issue depending on what kind of winter we have."
The Island Lake Village
Board voted unanimously Thursday night to spend up to $165,000 for road
times what it had planned to spend. After budgeting $60,000
to buy 1,300 tons of salt, the village learned that the price
state contract had tripled. So the board decided to order less—1,000 tons—to
supplement the 150 tons left
from last winter.
Highland Park officials
hope to partner with other municipalities that are confronting a salt shortage
to buy salt at a
more reasonable price through the Northwest Municipal
Conference, said Assistant City Manager William Jones.
County's largest municipality, has not yet ordered salt and is researching
"every option available,"
said city spokesman David Motley.
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