Liverpool officials fret over salt prices

EAST LIVERPOOL – Joining other communities, city officials this past week voiced their concerns about the rising price of road salt, which has more than doubled since last winter.

During a meeting of City Council’s finance committee, Service-Safety Director Ryan Estell and Mayor Jim Swoger addressed the issue, saying Swoger had been searching for alternatives available to the city.

Swoger gave the committee what initially sounded like good news: Just prior to the meeting, he had received an email informing him a shipment of Egyptian salt is arriving in September at a cost of just $50 per ton, up from $43 last year but still manageable.

Then, the bad news followed: That price did not include the additional $40 to $50 per ton for shipping and the $4-$6 per ton to unload the salt, bringing the total to an all-time high.

Swoger said he learned that $115 per ton is “about the best we can do.”

Estell estimated the salt supply will cost about $120,000 this year, compared to last year’s $43,000, saying, “We’ll buy what we can before winter starts.”

Estell pointed out, “Nobody in the county deals with the kinds of hills we are dealing with. We’ve considered not putting down salt, because we can’t afford $120,000, but too many people are at risk.”

Committee Chairman Sherrie Curtis said she expects some will complain that the city failed to purchase salt when it was priced lower, but pointed out that, even though it may be budgeted for, unless the actual revenue comes in, it can’t be purchased.

Swoger pointed out it isn’t so much a matter of salt being more expensive as it is the shipping costs having quadrupled.

“The city can’t afford this, but we don’t really have a choice,” Estell said, noting that most projections indicate the coming winter will be as cold and snowy as last year’s.

He said the street department did its own testing, using somewhat makeshift equipment that included a pickup truck, farm sprayer and two horse troughs, to try out a pre-treatment and salt brine process that he said worked well on city streets.

However, Estell said, changing over to that type of treatment instead of salt would require a costly investment in equipment and might be worth looking at in the future.

“That $400 test would turn into a $100,000 investment,” Swoger said, admitting, “I am very discouraged right now.”

In other matters, the committee forwarded for council’s consideration two pieces of legislation, one adjusting appropriations for the purchase of refuse and recycling materials and the other to pay the cost of a tourism ad.

Council will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday.