Pass the salt, please

By the time today’s snow storm has blown over, Lordstown’s road salt supply may very well be depleted.

They are not alone; others in the northeast Ohio area are wringing their hands waiting for deliveries of the melting mix from Morton Salt.

“We have about 300 tons (of salt), but if we get the snow and ice they’re calling for, we’ll probably be through,” Lordstown Street Commissioner Dale Grimm said Tuesday.

The village made a bid for approximately 2,100 tons for the year, but receives the salt in smaller shipments. Grimm said he put in a request for 400 tons on Jan. 24 and again on Jan. 28. Usually shipments arrive in a few days, but neither has come through yet.

“Our salt supply is dwindling fast and I heard we won’t get more until the end of the month,” Lordstown Mayor Arno A. Hill said.

Cortland also remains at the mercy of Morton Salt. Usually salt is just an email away for Cortland Service Director Don Wittman. Not this time.

A request put in for additional salt was met with the following response last Wednesday:

“Unfortunately, Morton Salt does not have additional salt available. Our remaining inventory must be supplied to customers that have not exceeded their allotment. Your quote is for the tonnage listed, at this time your request, is beyond that and inventory levels are very critical.”

Cortland has already used more than it typically does. For this winter, Wittman said the city originally requested around 625 tons and received about 750 tons. As of Tuesday, 150 tons remained.

“We use upwards of 25 tons if we do a full-blown salt run,” he said, “and you know we’re small compared to what other cities do.”

The city will first concentrate clearing efforts and salt use on state routes and some of the secondary arteries of the city before moving onto main residential thoroughfares.

“We’re being proactive and asking residents to slow down and use caution and know we may not be able to be as responsive as we have been with other snowfalls,” he said.

Morton Salt is one of the primary providers of salt for the northeast Ohio region since it is contracted with the Ohio Department of Transportation to provide salt at a low rate of $27.50 per ton.

“This has been an unprecedented winter weather season with the continued snow events and cold weather. We’re doing everything possible to replenish our customers’ salt supplies as quickly as possible,” Morton Salt spokeswoman Denise Lauer said via email.

”Even with these efforts, the demand for road salt is causing some delayed deliveries as we try to balance the needs of our customers,” Lauer said.

Cortland probably has enough for the first part of February, but Wittman said it has been asking around to see who might be able to help if they do need more salt.

One of the first places they turned was the Trumbull County Engineer’s Office. Through their Collaborative Partner Program, the Engineer’s Office provides salt to 25 townships, cities and entities. The county told Cortland it has to honor these commitments before being able to offer others supplies.

Standing in the county’s new salt dome, Highway Superintendent Gregg Alberini Sr. was dwarfed by two huge piles of blue salt and a brown mix of salt and grit for rural roadways.

“So far so good,” he said of the supply.

There are about 4,000 to 5,000 tons stored in the North River Road location. It’s much less than the total 13,000-ton winter supply, but still enough to make it through the season, by Alberini’s prediction.

“It’s difficult to determine, being 50 miles away from Lake Erie and with this storm coming from the south,” he said.

Some of the entities they are partnered with already came in to pick up their salt supply; Howland replenished its load Tuesday afternoon. Others will be taken care of by the engineer.

Alberini said they have a hierarchy of roads on which they concentrate clearing efforts. There are curves, intersections, hills and bridges to be kept clear first.

“Anywhere that someone stops,” he said.

Alberini has been with the engineer for the last three years and spent 23 years before that with the transportation department. He said one of the most common problems he has seen that result in a shortage of salt is its overuse.

Newton Falls is also set for today’s anticipated snowfall, having had a good stockpile from last year and receiving a shipment of salt from the state about two weeks prior. Village Manager Jack Haney said the state supplies them with salt to clear state Route 534.

Still others are in limbo, ready for current conditions but hoping the winter doesn’t worsen.

“We’re okay for what is anticipated to be the next event,” said Enzo Cantalamessa, Warren Safety Service Director, “but we’re awaiting a new delivery as well.”

It’s been about two weeks since the city requested another delivery of salt. Typically salt arrives three or four days after a request is made.

“If a shortage becomes unbearable,” Cantalamessa said, “we will explore other providers, though I’m not sure how better off they’ll be.”