City Has Road Salt Shortage

There is a road salt shortage in the city of Jamestown.

On Thursday, city officials received a portion of an 800-ton order they placed with a salt supplier two weeks ago. However, Jeff Lehman, Public Works Department director, said, even with the new load of salt, the city is below what it needs to keep roads safe.

“We’ve been rationing salt for the last week and mixing it with sand. Streets are dirtier than usual because we’ve had to mix in sand,” he said. “(Salt) is trickling in. It’s a good sign it is coming in, but we need more.”

Lehman said along with sand, the city has been experimenting with brine on city roads too. He said if the city’s supply of salt ran out, sand could be used to maintain highways. Also, sand can be used during extreme cold, which has been the case this winter.

“Salt isn’t as affective when it is really cold. We used sand when temperatures were really low,” Lehman said. “It is in our arsenal, but we don’t like to use it.”

He said the use of sand is something that leads to more work in the spring.

“The problem with sand is what we throw on the ground we have to pick up in the spring,” he said. “It gets into the gutters and gets into the storm sewer, and we have to vacuum it out in the spring.”

Lehman said Jamestown isn’t the only municipality having trouble receiving salt. He said it is a problem throughout the state.

“Supply is in such demand,” he said. “We’ve had an order in for two weeks, and usually we receive it within a couple days.”

Lehman said city officials usually order enough salt to fill their storage barn. He said since constructing the barn, storing salt has become easier.

“We again only buy as much as we can keep in the barn. Typically it is available, so when we get low we have it in two to three days,” he said. “Before we had the barn, we used to try and manage it so none was left at the end of the winter. We got a salt barn a couple years ago, which does make it easier.”

Last month, Jamestown Comptroller Joe Bellitto said this year, the city will spend more for snow removal than was budgeted.

“When we budget, we go by historical average but the weather can obviously throw that off so easily,” Bellitto said, adding that almost $500,000 was spent on salt and equipment in 2013, which was $160,000 over budget. “The snow-removal budget is a tough one because it’s all dependent on mother nature.”

In the milder winter of 2012, Bellitto said $280,000 was spent on salt.

“You can tell what a difference one year makes,” he said. “It’s really quite an incredible swing from $280,000 to nearly half a million.”

Jamestown’s Department of Public Works uses 12 vehicles for snow removal and salt spreading in the city and employs 43 workers. Last year, $693,292 was spent on salaries, which was under budget.