By BROOKE STEVENSON
Sunday Times Newspapers
ALLEN PARK — The city is one of many Downriver currently experiencing a salt shortage.
With large amounts of snow and below-freezing temperatures, cities are finding their salt supplies dwindling. The decreasing amounts are met with a recent increase in price.
City Administrator Eric Waidelich said there have been many phone calls to his office about road conditions.
“Believe it or not, there is a salt shortage, even though we’re sitting on salt mines,” he said.
The city gets its salt from Detroit Salt Co. LLC. Just before Christmas city officials were informed by Detroit Salt that prices were increasing dramatically.
“In regards to the salt, we’re doing everything we can to get additional salt,” said City Engineer and Department of Public Service Director Rick Lang. “We were notified that they increased the cost of salt from $38.95 to $68.95 per ton.
“We object to it, however, at this point in order for us to promote public safety and everything else we definitely need to purchase some salt.”
When Lang heard of the increase he called Detroit Salt, but could only get through to a secretary.
“At first i thought the increase was due to overtime and the holidays,” Lang said, “I asked a secretary if it was just over the holidays and she said she wasn’t sure.
“Now it is well past the holidays and the price is the same.”
A woman who answered the company telephone declined comment for this story when reached by the Sunday Times.
As of Jan. 13 the city had 400 tons of salt left, enough for one more big storm, said Lang.
Since then the city has had two more shipments of salt, paying the increased prices, a 500-ton and then an additional 2500-ton shipment.
The shipment received Jan. 15 cost $15,000 more than the prior shipment before the increases.
Lang said his department is doing its best to accommodate the situation.
“We are only salting intersections, curves and around schools. We are fully salting around schools,” Lang said. “On the side streets, you’ll notice that we’re just hitting the intersections to try to preserve what we have.
“Hopefully something will come out of this where we are able in the future to get salt as we need it.”
He added that in the past when the city needed more salt, officials and Detroit Salt could come to some type of agreement — but not this year.
“We’re not the only community that is involved in this,” said Mayor Gary Burtka. “Almost every community is going through this same issue.
“So we’re not alone in this. This is actually getting into legal issues. This is almost created. We can’t even get them to return our calls.”
This increase is causing the city to spend additional money it did not plan to spend, Burtka added.
“We’re objecting to this, but we are kind of over a barrel because we have to have it,” Burtka said. “It’s kind of like what they’re doing with gasoline with us.
“We’re all standing around scratching out heads trying to figure out why, and basically the same thing is happening with salt.”
City officials have asked their attorneys to look into the situation and try to find a solution.
“There are the salt mines right underneath our feet, 1,500 feet down, but we’re paying ridiculous prices,” Burtka said.
Allen Park, Brownstown Township, Melvindale, Southgate, Trenton and Woodhaven have formed a consortium through the Downriver Community Conference so they can bid collectively as a group, but the move has not yielded any results with salt.
“We put (the salt) out to bid and received absolutely no bids,” Lang said. “We contacted the vendors and advised them they were missing the deadline for the bid opening and told them they could fax us a quote and we would accept the quote.”
Out of four area vendors the consortium contacted, none have responded. The partnership between the communities now is looking beyond the community for the salt.
“I heard there is a new vendor that we weren’t aware of in Windsor,” Burtka said. “We need to look into that as a possibility too.
“I would really hate to buy outside our area, but if they’re going to squeeze us to the point where it is bleeding all over the Downriver communities, then we need to get a realistic price.
“(Detroit Salt Co.) have doubled the price basically on us and it’s within the last two weeks.”
The city has yet to find another salt supplier.
Last year the city used about 3,300 tons of salt and has used almost 1,700 tons this year. Lang said it is hard to tell how much more will be needed with a few more winter months left.