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Salt’s on sale, helping fight winter

Andy Ouriel • Jan 20, 2014 at 6:21 PM

The only way salt could get cheaper for local officials is if they head to area restaurants and swipe free shakers off tables.

Officials from eight local street departments and engineer offices in the region told the Register they’re buying road salt this winter for the same price as last year, if not lower.

Salt prices are based on supply and demand — the more salt needed, the higher the price and vice versa.

Three consecutive overall mild winters in Northwest Ohio parlayed into less demand, resulting in cheaper prices for local officials spending taxpayer dollars on salt.

Area officials realize how important salt is in keeping roads safe, including in Huron County, where the engineer’s office is responsible for 550 lane miles of road and 400-plus bridges.

“Road salt becomes as important for safe operations during our Northern Ohio winters as guardrails, pavement markings, reflective signs and smooth pavement during the spring and summer” said Carl Essex, an administrative assistant for the Huron County engineer’s office.

To ensure all these roads remain safe, Huron County officials incorporate some creative antifreeze asphalt tactics.

“The highway department usually mixes stone grit from our local quarries with road salt for use on many of the lightly traveled township roadways,” Essex said. “In addition to providing rural roadways with an extra abrasive, the move saves townships about 50 percent on the cost of their snow- and ice-control efforts”

To keep prices low in Vermilion, drivers only salt a certain area.

“We began salting only the intersections, hills, bridges, curves and spot-salting long sections of road in 2010” said Robert Kurtz, Vermilion’s director of public service. “This has worked very well over the past few years, and we have not noticed any adverse effects”

Ottawa County officials employ a similar tactic.

“By evaluating the type of storm that may be coming … we are able to minimize how much salt and when to apply it to get the greatest benefit from its placement for the least cost,” Ottawa County engineer Dave Brunkhorst said. “We mix a chemical with the salt to allow it to work below its normal effective temperature level and refrain from placing salt on the pavement when high winds and drifting would render it useless”

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