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February 4, 2014

Terre Haute hoping salt supply lasts through winter

TERRE HAUTE — Terre Haute Transportation Director Brad Miller is hoping he’ll have enough road salt to get through the never-ending winter of 2014.

But he’s concerned.

Supply issues, shipping delays and more winter storms could deplete that salt supply.

The storm that came through Tuesday will use about 200 to 300 tons of salt, he predicted. “We’ve already cut back on the mix. We’re using a little more sand than salt,” Miller said.

After this storm, the city will still be able to handle snowfalls with “a few inches here and there.” But if they keep coming in at 8 to 10 inches, “we may have a problem,” Miller said.

The city started the year with 1,000 tons and purchased another 1,200 on contract. As of noon Tuesday, the city had 200 tons in storage and another 400 tons awaiting delivery.

Miller is not sure when that 400 tons will arrive because delivery is backed up. “Everyone in the state is looking to get salt in, and there are only so many trucks,” he said.

But once that 400 tons arrives, the supply may be gone. “We’ve been informed by four major suppliers for Indiana they have not got anything else,” Miller said.

The street department is working with a supplier in town that can provide a calcium chloride/sand mix. Calcium chloride is more expensive, but works at lower temperatures than salt.

“We don’t know how it will work, but we will try it out with this storm,” Miller said. If it works, “that gives us an option” should salt supplies run low — or out.

The city is within budget for materials, but “overtime is killing us,” Miller said. “You can’t have a winter like this and be within budget.”

If spring and summer bring moderate weather, and not a lot of storms, “we’ll catch up,” Miller said.

The Vigo County Highway Department has a 1,000-ton order of salt and received 300 tons on Monday, said Daniel Bennett, Vigo County highway superintendent.

“That will be enough to get us through this storm,” he said. Because of the demand, vendors are running behind on delivery and he wasn’t sure when the county would get the remaining 700 tons.

He’s been assured the county will receive its order, “but they can’t deliver it all at once,” he said.

He had just come in off the roads late Tuesday afternoon. “It’s almost a whiteout in the county,” he said.

The department mixes the salt with sand, one part salt to three parts sand.

The highway department buys salt through an INDOT contract at a discount, he said, but it’s still been an expensive winter. “It’s been the toughest winter we’ve had in a lot of years,” Bennett said.

The last big storm cost a little more than $240,000 in materials, equipment breakdowns, labor and other expenses, he said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

 

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