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County roads aren’t on low-salt diet, yet

With Mother Nature’s cooperation, Harrison County roads will hopefully be problem free this winter despite having a relative shortage of salt on hand to battle frozen roads.
Currently, the Harrison County Highway Dept. has between 100 and 150 tons of salt on hand, which is enough to take care of three to four small weather events and one large event.
Steve Miller, bridge foreman with the highway department, said the salt will be mixed with sand and cinders and should be enough to get the county through the first of the year, when 1,600 tons of salt is set to be delivered from Cargill Salt in Louisville.
As long as there aren’t any major weather events, the county’s supply of salt should be sufficient, Miller said, noting that many other counties are in the same predicament when it comes to being low on salt.
‘Barring it from being a disastrous snowstorm, we should have enough,’ he added. ‘We can’t get as much as we were wanting for the whole year, so we’re having to ration it a little bit.’
The first snowflakes of the winter season arrived two weeks ago to the area. Because the ground temperature was still warm enough to melt the snow on contact, there was no need to treat the roads.
‘I think what we’re going to do going forward is on the little snows, we’ll watch and see how big they’ll turn out to be. We’ll still fight them the way we need to, but maybe we’ll be more aggressive with the salt in turns and around intersections and on the straight stretches lighten up a little bit,’ Miller said. ‘We’re probably not going to go out on flurries; however, we might have to go out if the weather is cold and the fire department has been on a road and it’s iced up.
Same thing with bridges and overpasses,’ he said. ‘The sheriff’s department gives us a call and we try to help out.’
In a worst-case scenario, Miller said if the county runs out of salt, then highway Supt. Glen Bube would talk to the county commissioners about purchasing additional salt.
‘Whenever there’s a snow occurrence, he’s at the helm, but what we could do in the meantime is put chips and cinders on the road and plow and stuff like that, but actually melting the snow would have to be left up to Mother Nature until she warms it up,’ Miller said. ‘That’s a worse-case scenario, and we’re going to hope it doesn’t come to that here in the next five or six weeks.’
Salt Institute, an Alexandria, Va., group that represents salt mining companies, said that 20.3 million tons of road salt were bought in the United States last year, up from 12.1 million in 2006. Salt miners have been working around the clock just to try to amass enough salt to meet contracts already in place as well as trying to meet new demand.
The cost of road salt reflects such demand.
The price of salt has gone up significantly, with the new batch setting the county back $73.62 a ton, compared to about $53 a ton the previous year.
The Indiana Dept. of Transportation’s district in Southern Indiana is receiving 50,000 tons of salt this year, at $53.30 a ton, compared to the $47.03 per ton it spent on 45,000 tons last year.
INDOT, which also applies brine (basically a salt-water solution), has an additional 5,000 tons in reserve, district spokesman Marvin Jenkins said.