As 60-degree temperatures warmed central Ohio last week, local communities have been tallying the bill from one of the harshest winters in decades that brought salt shortages, round-the-clock road-crew shifts and plenty of overtime.
Although Johnstown had sufficient rock salt on hand, road crews went through nearly twice as much to treat village streets, compared to a typical winter, service director Jack Liggett said.
Trucks spread 610 tons of rock salt at $48.50 a ton ($29,585). An average winter usually requires 350-400 tons, he said.
"We had about 300 tons left over from last year so we were in pretty good shape heading into winter, but I know a lot of communities were out of salt," Liggett said. "We are filling our contracts right now for next year, and it's a guessing game."
The Ohio Department of Transportation was expected to use about 600,000 tons of road salt this winter. The agency used more than 1 million tons of salt and spent more than $119.4 million, compared to last season's nearly 732,000 tons and $80.7 million in cost, according to figures provided by ODOT spokesman Steve Faulkner.
Last February, ODOT director Jerry Wray said if the agency were to use more than 1 million tons of salt over the winter, it would be a first.
The state Controlling Board granted ODOT's request last month for more than $2 million to buy about 30,000 tons of salt from Cargill De-Icing Technology Inc. and Morton Salt Inc. in an effort to replenish supplies used during the snowy winter.
ODOT negotiates contracts with suppliers to provide salt for the state and for local governments. A national salt shortage made that a challenge.
"A lot of orders were delayed," Faulkner said. "What we did was provide salt to some local communities who needed it. We asked them how much they needed to get through a storm."
Johnstown typically budgets $40,000 for salt supplies annually. Last year, it spent $25,000, Liggett said.
The village depends on a service department team of nine, including Liggett, to not only treat 26 miles of roads and streets but also to maintain the water and sewer plants, streetlights and traffic signals, parks and public trees.
Liggett juggled employee shifts in an effort to minimize overtime, he said.
"I think we only had about $3,000 in overtime, but we were worn out," he said. "It was a stretch, but we managed to work in 10-hour shifts, two at a time when things got bad. We really had to prioritize our workload."