Buena Vista County is hoping for a warmer winter this year. However, if the winter is anything like last year, they could face a dilemma - but they're not alone. According to reports cities and counties across the state are worried they won't have enough salt for the roads this winter.
County Supervisor Lorna Burnside asked County Engineer Jon Ites during the Board of Supervisors meeting, Tuesday if they had received any more salt. "The answer is no," he responded. "Probably going to stay no."
Ites says so far this year they have 1,000 tons of road salt contracted. In previous years he said they're used to using 1,700 to 2,000 tons. "We've got a shortage but it's not just us," he says. "Which means we're going to have to be a lot more selective when we use it." Ites says they are looking at other means to ration the salt and stretch out the supply. One method he says is by mixing more sand in with the salt.
Some of the shortage was a result of an icy winter last year and cities and counties using more than usual. Dwight Rorhol, Iowa DOT District Maintenance Manager for District 3, which includes Storm Lake and Buena Vista County says the concern isn't just in Iowa but includes other surrounding states as well. "(Ice storms) knocked out the power and they (Kansas salt mines) couldn't produce," Rorhol said. As the salt usage went up, he says, so did the prices.
The County is paying about $81 a ton this year, whereas they paid about $54 a ton last year. Ites says some counties receive their salt by the barge load on the Missouri River, however, it's undependable and hard to receive the salt once the river freezes over.
Storm Lake City Clerk Justin Yarosevich says he doesn't antipate any problems this winter with their road salt supply saying the bids were just let for about 350 tons for the City at about $82 a ton. "We order what we think we're going to need and we probably have some from last year," Yarosevich says. However, he says with more freezing rain and sleet they did use more salt last year.
When they look at how much salt they need they say they look at a long range forecast of what they think they'll need and then continue to monitor the situation throughout the winter. "Only mother nature will tell us what we really need," he adds.
Yarosevich says the City wishes to remind citizens to be patient as City officials clear the roads and use common sense when driving on icy roads. Allow more time for braking when it's slick out, he says.