Olentangy Valley News

Scant salt supply sends Powell on search for alternative

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Even as temperatures hover in the mid-80s, Powell officials are preparing for winter.

And with the salt supply depleted and salt prices soaring, they're finding it's not that easy.

City spokeswoman Megan Canavan said the city took part in a joint bid for salt in August through the Southwest Ohio Purchasers for Government consortium. The consortium, made up of dozens of cities, townships, transit agencies and villages, sought 250,000 tons of salt.

The group received three "no bids" and three partial bids. No firm offered more than 63,000 tons and all of the partial bids came with stipulations and restrictions.

Canavan said Powell came out of the process with no additional guaranteed salt for the winter, although the consortium will attempt to bid again in December. She said city officials were not shocked that salt is tough to come by this year.

"I think that it was expected based on the winter the Midwest had last year," she said.

Currently, the city has 500 tons of salt on hand in its salt barn, which is not likely to last the winter.

"The salt that we have on hand right now would ... probably get us through a third of the winter," she said.

Workers spread about 1,500 tons of salt on city streets during the "polar vortex" winter of 2013-14, and Canavan said the city is expecting a similarly harsh winter this year. The city used the second-most salt last winter since it began keeping those records in 1995.

The city spent about $98,000 on salt and $16,000 on overtime for plow drivers last winter.

Canavan said the city is not alone in its struggle to find salt for the winter, adding that municipalities are sharing ideas on how to combat the coming snowstorms.

"It's a problem that's affecting all of central Ohio and beyond," she said.

Canavan said the city currently is looking into other solutions for dealing with snow- and ice-covered roadways, including brine and beet juice.

"We just need to get back to the drawing board as far as what we can do here," she said.

The city of Delaware began testing a sugar-beet juice product for treating roadways last winter. City spokesman Lee Yoakum has said Delaware was happy with the results and likely will use more of the product this winter.

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