Mild winter means city budget for salt cuts costs
It was a winter that many will remember generally as being mild, though on days of wintry conditions city staff was committed to assuring Highland Park that curbing the effect of wintry conditions on roads was a priority.
Though winter seems to be in the rearview, Highland Park remains focused on weighing the cost of its salt supply and future needs even as the weather becomes warmer.
Ramesh Kanapareddy, director of public works of Highland Park, provided an overview of the city’s outlook on its salt supply. He said it should be noted how the cost of these purchases depends on supply and demand.
In 2015, Highland Park paid nearly $59 per ton of salt, $7 less per ton than in 2011 and $6 more than in 2013.
On average, Highland Park uses 4,000 tons of salt to meet the city’s needs between November and April. Some of salt stored also helps in supporting area school districts.
By winter’s end, the city will typically prefer to hold about 1,000 tons of leftover salt.
In harsh winters like two years ago, Highland Park’s surplus was just 50 tons.
When the city staff finds a surplus leftover at winter’s end, it will remain stored in the salt dome, which can hold up to 2,000 tons.
Each year, Highland Park holds 40 salting events and up to 25 plowing events due to freezing temperatures, including snow and freezing rain.
While Highland Park’s salt supply is generally serviced through two main salt manufacturers — North American Salt and Morton Salt — it remains a challenge in some years to keep the dome filled.
“There are only three big vendors who can provide the salt and everybody goes to them,” Kanapareddy said. “Even if you had a contract with them–and we had a contract them–they just could not supply in time.”
Two years ago, the Lake County Bulk Salt Consortium was formed after seeing the predicament Highland Park and other neighboring towns faced.
Kanapareddy said having two entities that can go out to bid for salt gives Highland Park a better shot at getting salt when it’s needed.
“The reason for that is with this bid, we can try to get the salt before Nov. 1 so we can have it stockpiled ready to go,” he said.
Highland Park’s existing salt dome was built in 1986. In response to concerns raised about the aging structure, Kanapareddy sought to lessen the worry, saying how “it still works and we can still manage salt operations with no problem.”
The hope, according to Kanapareddy, is that as long as the city keeps an eye on its supply, remains mindful of the forecast, and assumes that not everyone is looking to purchase from the same vendor, they can stay ahead of the line.