Salt in short supply for city, county

-A A +A
By Calen McKinney


There has been plenty of snow this winter, but officials say the same can't be said about salt to clear city streets and county roads.

Taylor County Road Department workers got a new shipment of salt last Wednesday after being out for a few days.

"We were out. We were scared. We were out for about two days," Brian Smothers, county road foreman, said.

So far this winter, county road workers have used about 300 tons of salt. They got 200 tons in last week.

Campbellsville City Street Department workers are rationing their dwindling salt supply because they have been told they might not get any more for a while.

City Street Supervisor Holland Milby said this winter has been worse than many winters past, and city workers have used a little more than 100 tons of salt to help keep the streets clear.

"We've used more this winter than we've used in the last three winters."

And after using the 100 tons of salt, Milby said the city is left with about 20 tons.

"Not very much," he said. "We can't get any in."

Milby said the city has some salt on order, but has been told it likely won't get any in until March. That means city workers will have to ration the salt they have on hand.

"[We will salt] intersections," he said. "Just do what we have to."

Should the city need more salt, Milby said it might be able to borrow some from the state, as it has done before.

"I hope we'll be OK," he said. "I don't know."

Milby said the city's two trucks salt Campbellsville's heavily traveled areas first, including downtown, Cherokee, Lowell Avenue, North Central Avenue and the bypass.

At the start of the winter season, Smothers said he hoped the county's 400-ton salt supply, most of which was left from last year, would last the entire winter. But now, after that 400 tons and more has been used, he said he doubts that even the 200 tons the county just bought will last through this snowy season.

"We'll probably use it up [this] week, the way it looks," he said.

The county buys its salt from a company in Jeffersonville, Ind., at $66 a ton. Smothers said the county is purchasing cheaper salt because the kind that contains calcium nitrate isn't available right now and is much more expensive. The more expensive salt can be used in colder temperatures, he said.

The county didn't buy any salt last year, according to Debbie McNear, who serves as Taylor County Judge/Executive Eddie Rogers' executive secretary. The county had a stockpile of salt purchased the previous year and used that.

This winter, the county has, so far, received a bill for $6,700 for salt. Two more salt loads are on order, McNear said, and she hasn't yet received bills for them.

The city also buys its salt in Indiana, Milby said, at about $90 a ton, which is a bit more expensive than last year.

So far this winter, according to City Clerk Cary Noe, the city has spent $2,825.26 to buy salt. She said another load is on back order, so she expects the total to double before this winter ends. For the 2012 winter, Noe said, the city spent $1,393.03 on salt.

The state has spent more than $27 million in labor, materials and equipment costs to remove snow from state roads, according to a news release from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. Officials say they salt for the remainder of winter, though they stated on Friday that salt reserves across the state are dwindling.

Transportation crews have spread more than 220,000 tons of salt, according to the release, compared to 85,000 tons at this time last year. Transportation crews typically use 200,000 to 250,000 tons a year.

During the 2010-2011 winter, state crews used more than 450,000 tons of salt and spent nearly $74 million.

Smothers said this winter season has been worse than predicted.

"It's been a rough one," he said.

He and the other eight county road workers have had to battle snow, ice and flooding caused by heavy rain.

"You don't know what to expect," he said.

But despite this year's snowy winter, Milby and Smothers say city and county road equipment is in good shape and they have been able to clear the roadways for motorists.

"We've been pretty lucky there," Smothers said.

But, nevertheless, he said, the past few weeks have been stressful for road workers - because of long hours and making sure they have enough salt to keep the roads clear.

"It's just been rough," Smothers said. "We've been borderline, then out, and had to watch what we've got."

For the nine county road workers, the rough winter has meant overtime and working late nights.

"That's part of it," he said. "That's what they signed up for."

Milby said his eight street department workers are on call at all times. And when it snows, he starts calling them in to work.

"We've had to work quite a bit of overtime," he said.

When snow starts falling, Smothers said he calls all of his employees to come to the county barn. There is a truck to be driven in each magisterial district, and the other employees are needed to stay at headquarters and monitor what's happening. Others work to salt the county's public parking lots, like the ones at the Taylor County Courthouse, Taylor County Judicial Center and Taylor County Detention Center.

"There's something for somebody to do nonstop," Smothers said.

With more snow in the forecast for this week, Smothers said his workers will be ready.

"I'm ready for it to be over with," he said. "Don't look like it's gonna warm up too much."