Road salt shortage hits snow-removal contractors

Road salt shortage hits snow-removal contractors

It’s not hard to remember last year’s harsh winter, but private construction companies are still feeling the aftereffects. Contractors are battling a shortage of road salt this season, on top of skyrocketing prices.

Bill Yoss has owned his own construction business for the last four decades and said he has never had a problem getting salt in the past, or had to pay as much as he  is this year to stock salt.

“We’ve seen it double since last year, and normally we would have a couple tons a year. We got less than 25 percent of that this year, which left us really short and scrambling for salt,” Yoss said.

Yoss was shorted by 150 tons of salt and had to pay the same price per ton for the amount from Morton Salt. It forced him to find an additional supply from Venezuela, to be able to provide snow removal this year to shopping centers and areas like the Eclipse Center in Beloit.

A shortage of salt means Yoss is not the only one paying more this year. The city of Janesville has also had to pay the cost for the shortage of supplies.

“It went up 15 percent from last year. Salt is a pretty large part of our budget anyway and that doesn’t help,” said John Whitcomb, operations director for the city of Janesville.

The city uses 4,000 to 5,000 tons of salt a season. This year the city paid close to $66 per ton. It’s an increase Whitcomb has continued to see rise since he started his position in 2001, when  he was able to buy salt for $26.

Despite the increase in road salt prices, it’s the private contractors Whitcomb said are being affected the most. A reality Yoss knows too well.

“What I think they are doing this year is saving it for the municipalities, to make sure that they have enough, because I’ve talked to some of those guys and they have no problem getting it,” Yoss said.

However, with not enough salt to go around, Yoss is hoping this winter is kind to both the roads and his business.

“We’ve got enough salt now, so if we have a winter like last winter we will be okay. If it’s worse than last winter, we might be in trouble,” he said.

Whitcomb said he is also hoping for a mild winter to save some of the salt the city purchased this year and use it toward next season in an effort to save money in the long run.