By Ed Runyan
Some of the same measures that got Trumbull County road departments through the end of last winter may become common at the start of winter this year.
Trumbull County Engineer Randy Smith and his highway superintendent, Gregg Alberini, met Wednesday with officials from many townships and municipalities that partner with the county to buy and store road salt. They discussed how they will cope with higher salt prices.
Some of the strategies, such as limiting salt use to hills and curves, are among methods used late last winter when many communities ran low on salt and couldn’t get more because of the harsh winter. Another method was mixing grit with salt.
Newer ideas discussed Wednesday included pretreating roads with brine and adding chemicals to the salt, such as Beet Heat, which is derived from molasses from sugar-beet processing.
The latter two ideas require investment in holding tanks and an applicator to spread the liquids. The cost to equip two county trucks would be about $40,000, Smith said.
Pretreating roads with brine breaks the bond between the road surface and the ice and makes it easier to plow, Alberini said.
The Beet Heet can be added to a salt pile or added to the salt as it is dispersed at the back of the truck to raise the temperature of the material and improve its melting properties.
Smith hasn’t decided whether to invest in the brine or Beet Heet. He plans to discuss those options further with county commissioners.
The county engineer’s office built a salt dome with grant money and used it last winter to provide a place where the engineer’s office and its 14 partner townships and municipalities can store their salt. The arrangement also allows the townships to buy their salt with the county to reduce the price.
The county engineer’s office purchased a summer supply of 7,000 tons at $42 per ton, but the Ohio Department of Transportation quoted the county a cost for 7,000 tons more this winter at $129 per ton. Smith’s office is looking into other ways to buy its winter supply at $80 to $90 per ton, but that still represents a roughly 300 percent increase over last year, when the price was $27.50 per ton.
Not only is it hard to understand why the price rose so much, it is also hard to understand why the prices quoted to communities not far away in Northeast Ohio — around $50 per ton in Streetsboro and Cuyahoga County — are so much lower than here, Smith said.
Nonetheless, road officials here have little choice but to accept the higher cost, Smith said.
Kris Parke, Bazetta Township road superintendent, said the township is fortunate to still have 88 tons of salt in the county dome that it bought at $27.50 per ton last year and to have 266 tons in the dome from the summer purchase.
But Parke said he is considering adding Beet Heet to the salt this winter to make it last longer.
Greg Leonhard, a Kinsman Township trustee, said his township appreciates the savings the county engineer’s office provides to the township and will probably rely on the alternatives the county engineer employs.
“We can’t afford to experiment,” he said.