Tarentum forced to buy tons of road salt by start of summer
At this time of year, salt is more likely to be used for french fries or margaritas than for melting snow and ice.
But Tarentum will buy nearly 300 tons of road salt by the end of June — because a contract says it has to.
And, worse, there’s no place to put it.
The borough didn’t use as much road salt to clear its roads last winter because of a below-average season for snowfall. Snow fell on only 38% of the days between the first and the last date that any snow, even flurries, was recorded.
According to the National Weather Service, 36.6 inches of snow was measured between Oct. 21 and April 15. That’s 5.3 inches below the average winter snowfall of 41.9 inches.
Over that 176 days, snow was recorded on 67 days.
The borough gets road salt through a buying alliance with the South Hills Area Council of Governments. It was contracted to buy at least 800 tons at $70.93 per ton, Borough Manager Michael Nestico said.
About 100 communities participate in the group, said Lou Gorski, executive director of the council. They are required to buy at least 80% of the amount of salt they estimate they’ll need, and can get up to 12% at the same price.
That means Tarentum estimated it would need 1,000 tons of salt, and would be able to buy up to 1,250 tons at the same $70.93 per ton price.
Gorski said he’s not yet aware of how many of the member municipalities are in the same situation as Tarentum in having to buy more salt to meet their minimum obligation.
“At this point, municipalities are still evaluating their own situations,” he said.
According to Nestico, Tarentum has received 507 tons of salt; it must buy and receive 293 tons more by June 30.
The borough paid about $36,000 for the salt already received.
The additional salt will cost nearly $21,000 more.
“From a budgetary standpoint, we are on track and under our $30,000 salt budget amount set forth for 2019,” Nestico said.
Complicating matters is that the borough’s salt storage facility is at capacity.
The borough budgeted and planned to build a storage shed at its public works facility to store excess salt and other equipment, Nestico said.
“We knew coming into 2019 that it was likely we would have to take on this additional delivery amount,” he said. “However, we are looking into other options which may allow us to cut costs or generate an additional savings, such as a short-term storage lease, or a couple of other solutions. At this time, we are still examining those options.”
Breaching the contract would result in penalties more costly than storing the salt until next winter, Nestico said.
Noting that there are ways to get around the storage problem, having too much salt is better than not having enough, Councilwoman Carrie Fox said.
“You don’t want your streets to go without being salted,” she said.
Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Brian at 724-226-4701, [email protected] or via Twitter .