National road salt price increase hits Evanston


Sean Su/Daily Senior Staffer

The price of road salt from Evanston’s suppliers has increased 30 percent this year, following record-breaking snowfalls in 2014. The city’s reduced need for salt this winter may make up the difference and avoid a budget strain.

Julia Jacobs, Assistant City Editor

The price of road salt from Evanston’s suppliers has increased 30 percent this year, which could lead to a strain on the budget if winter weather ramps up, said Suzette Robinson, the city’s public works director .

Last year’s harsh winter resulted in a salt price rise of about 20 percent nationwide, according to the Wall Street Journal. Because last winter’s demand for salt was abnormally high across the country, salt companies began dipping into supplies designated for this winter, said James Maiworm, Evanston’s assistant public works director. The low supply at the beginning of this winter led to a necessary budget increase in Evanston to cover the higher price, Maiworm said.

“We broke the record in terms of number of inches of snow in Evanston with the snow season last year, so if we go back and have a normal snow season, we could quite easily strain the budget,” Robinson said.

However, because this year’s winter has thus far been milder than last year’s, the 30- to 40-percent reduction in road salt use could compensate for the increased price, Robinson said. The decrease in fuel prices could also be a balancing factor, as the city is currently spending only 55 percent of the fuel budget, she said.

A week of heavy snowfall early last January left the city with $165,000, only 24 percent of the winter weather budget for the rest of the season, according to city documents.

“Unlike last year where we were using salt like crazy, this winter has not turned out to be that bad, so therefore we’re using less salt,” Maiworm said.

In the effort to further reduce salt usage, the city uses an anti-icing technique that involves priming roads with salt brine and beet juice on the street before a snowfall, Robinson said. This year, the addition of calcium chloride as a liquid additive should further supplement rock salt.

The city dedicated a week in November to raising community awareness of what to do after a snowfall, which included posting videos on snow removal techniques and a view from inside the new salt dome, said Cindy Plante, a local government management fellow. New programs intended to increase compliance among residents regarding shoveling their sidewalks and following parking restrictions during snowstorms stemmed from a survey conducted after last winter, Plante said.

The city’s salt dome currently holds 3,200 tons of salt and it is unlikely that the city will require all of the salt that it ordered, Maiworm said. The dome, with a capacity of 4,200 tons, replaced a smaller one that was deteriorating in the fall.

“The more that we can have on hand, it gives us more flexibility to be able to weather salt shortages,” Robinson said.

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