CHAMPAIGN — After rising steadily for the past 10 years, road salt prices dropped 10 percent for the city this year.
They stayed roughly the same for other agencies responsible for clearing the roads when the snow and ice begins to fall. The salt contracts are a reminder that — like it or not — it's November, it's getting colder, and local governments are starting to prepare for the winter season.
"We're hoping it's going to be a mild winter like it was last year," said Tracy Wingler, Champaign County highway department superintendent.
Most agencies bought far less salt this year after last year's warmer temperatures left a lot of calcium chloride in stock.
"I'd say, around the state of Illinois, it's probably the same," Wingler said. "There's an abundance of salt."
Last year, a mild winter, the county used about 1,100 tons of salt, Wingler said. The year before that, a heavier winter, the county workers spread about 4,800 tons.
This year, the county bought another 1,000 tons, less than one-third of what it normally purchases. It will cost $68.75 per ton, 57 cents more than what it paid last year.
Salting will actually begin as early as next week for Champaign County, Wingler said. About twice per week, county workers will "pre-treat" bridge decks with a liquid salt, so when frost forms on the bridges overnight, the ice will melt faster.
Champaign officials were pleased to hear that they would pay about 10 percent less per ton than they paid last year. That's after years of steady price increases.
The city has asked for 2,500 tons of salt this year, and will pay $61.37 per ton for it, compared with $68.75 last year. The city previously had budgeted $175,000 for salt.
The county, cities of Champaign and Urbana all purchase rock salt through a state program that allows some flexibility in how much calcium chloride they actually receive. They requisition a specific tonnage and can then accept delivery anywhere between 80 and 120 percent of what they ordered.
That means Champaign will pay for anywhere between 2,000 and 3,000 tons of salt. The city of Urbana ordered 1,000 tons, which will allow it the option of purchasing 800 to 1,200 tons.
The price in Urbana is down a bit: $67.69 per ton this year compared with $67.89 last year.
Champaign public works operations supervisor Kyle Schneider said the city is not sure why its price was so much lower, but they have contacted the administrator of the state purchasing program to figure out why.
Urbana public works crews are starting to prepare their fleet of snow plows. They met on Wednesday to talk about their snow routes and any changes to the equipment they use to clear the roads.
Champaign administrative services supervisor Kris Koester said crews in that city were preparing for snowfall back when temperatures were still in the 70s.
"We have been very intently planning for about a month," Koester said.
Rock salt prices
The price of rock salt to melt the ice on Champaign roads has risen steadily during the past 10 years until a sudden drop this year. The city has arranged to purchase anywhere between 2,000 and 3,000 tons of salt this winter.
Winter season Price per ton Change2002-03 $36.22—2003-04 $36.982.09%2004-05 $37.732.03%2005-06 $40.697.84%2006-07 $44.569.51%2007-08 $44.54-0.04%2008-09 $64.5844.99%2009-10 $66.893.58%2010-11 $68.161.90%2011-12 $68.750.86%2012-13 $61.37-10.73%