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Search for salt comes up empty in Lee County

Application through state gets no takers; board meets Friday

DIXON – The Lee County Board will have an emergency meeting Friday to figure out how to avert a potential disaster: a winter without road salt.

The meeting is being called after the board received notice that the county’s application through the state to receive bids for road salt received no bids.

Lee County is one of 195 communities that face this problem – about one-third of the 562 of communities that applied.

The explanation? Simple economics, said Mike Claffey, a representative of the state’s Department of Central Management Services. It’s a matter of supply and demand.

A bad winter means less salt to go around the next winter. It also means a spike in prices for what is available. While last year, the cost of a ton of salt averaged about $55, this year the price is from $70 to $140. The same thing happened after the winter of 2007-08.

“That was another historic winter, in terms of snow and ice, so everybody went through the salt,” Claffey said. “As a result, the prices jumped.”

The next year, prices tripled.

In a regular year, communities that go through the state to get their salt receive the price advantage that comes with buying in bulk. The Department of Central Management Services accepts applications from communities, and then salt suppliers submit their bids. Communities get their salt. Everyone’s happy.

This year, however, many Illinois communities find themselves struggling to come up with a solution to what could be a difficult problem.

The Department of Central Management Services, for its part, is allowing communities to re-apply to see whether, the second time around, they get a bid.

On Friday, Lee County Board members will have to decide what to do: re-apply through the state, or seek bids without its help.

To attend

The Lee County Board will meet at 9 a.m. Friday on the third floor of the old Lee County Courthouse, 112 E. Second St. in Dixon.

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