Lee County takes action to solve Illinois salt shortage

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There's still a bite from this brutal winter. Five months before the holiday, it's hardly Christmas in July.

"It's a surprise to everybody up here, to say the least," said Lee County Board Chairman Rick Ketchum.

There's a mad scramble for road salt in Illinois.  Supplies are down.  Prices are high.  Lee County is caught in the stalemate.

"All the entities that did not receive bids are going to be clamoring for the salt that is available," said Lee County Highway Department Director David Anderson.

Reasons for an emergency county board meeting on Friday. Board members were blindsided by its unfilled bid from the state's Department of Central Management Services.

A unanimous vote on Friday will skip another state bid. Lee County will take matters into its own hands.

"This will allow me to quickly go out and procure the salt needs that we'll have for next winter," Anderson said.

Since prices are at least doubling, Lee County will buy less salt this year.  It's creating a financial hardship for nearly 200 Illinois communities that are caught in the same situation.

Lee County's salt bill could top $220,000. That's from buying 2,000 tons instead of 3,000.  It's crucial for a county that covers 220 miles and nearly two dozen townships.

"It's going to affect our bottom line because this is something that was unexpected," said Lee County Board Member Greg Witzleb. "We thought we would pay $55 a ton.  Now, it's like $120."

Added to current salt supplies, it will keep the county from running out. But the volatility of a vicious winter will cost communities dearly.

"Hopefully, we can get by this year with a light winter," Ketchum concluded. "It's our best hope."

A winter's aftermath that's costing communities big bucks just preparing for the next one.



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