NEW CASTLE — Salt is not only the spice of life it’s a necessary ingredient for surviving winters in Pennsylvania.
That’s why municipalities keep an eye on their supply. Recent storms that hit the midwest and eastern portions of the nation are slowing delivery of road salt to some local highway departments.
Other areas have been more fortunate and report their salt supply is good for now.
“We’ve got a lot of promises and an empty shed,” said Leslie Bucci, Neshannock Township secretary/treasurer.
She said the township placed orders Dec. 19, 30 and Thursday.
“We were promised two 25-ton deliveries each time, but they haven’t been able to deliver.”
She said the township obtains its salt — at $57.38 per ton — through Costars, the state’s purchasing program.
North American Salt Co., based in Conneaut, Ohio, is the provider selected by the state to deliver road salt. This is the first time local municipalities have dealt with this company, she said. Previously, they dealt with Cargill and Morton salt companies, both in Cleveland, and experienced a one-week turnaround between ordering and receiving salt.
“They tell us the roads are bad and the delivery trucks can’t get out of the salt mine, north of Cleveland,” she said. “We’re owed four loads back from December. It’s really frustrating.”
The lack of salt has affected road clearing throughout the township, she said.
“It’s no one’s fault here that we’re out of salt. We followed the same procedures we always do. The provider has not kept up its part.”
Union Township, which had been looking at the bottom of its salt shed, received two truck loads Thursday and two more yesterday.
“We’re in good shape if we don’t get more snow,” said Supervisor Pat Angiolelli. “What we have is not enough.”
Angiolelli said he ordered 400 tons Dec. 17. “They still owe me 300 tons.”
The supervisor said he had hoped to use more salt and less anti-skid material to keep roadsides cleaner, but was “throwing real dirty stuff” Thursday to stretch his supply.
Anti-skid, he explained, is a mix of fine pebbles, sand and sometimes dirt. Although it provides traction, it builds up on roadsides and keeps water on the roads.
“We use it to stretch the salt supply or replace it when we run out.”
Angiolelli said he also has had trouble getting deliveries from the North American Salt Co.
“You can’t even call them,” he said. “All you can do is leave a message. They return the call in a day or two.”
Attempts to reach the Costars program yesterday were unsuccessful.
Michael Rooney, New Castle public works director, said the city expected to receive more salt yesterday and today through the state program.
Because the area was hit with several snowfalls in December, he said, the city is conserving its supply.
Rooney said the city ordered 900 tons of additional salt.
He said city crews were out until 4 a.m. yesterday taking care of streets, concentrating on hills, main streets and bridges before getting to side streets.
Rooney said he also made sure the crews took care of streets around the schools. His department also is responsible for clearing sidewalks on city property.
Hickory Township secretary Carol Kordish said that municipality’s salt shed is full.
It received two 25-ton truck loads in mid-December and two more last Saturday, which Supervisor Bill Dean said the township mixed with anti-skid material.
“We have about 100 tons” of salt, Kordish said yesterday. “We’re good.”
Hickory also obtains its salt supply through the Costars program and North American Salt Co.
Fred Garrett, superintendent of New Wilmington Borough, received three 25-ton loads last week, also through the Costars program and from North American Salt.
He said orders, filled in one to two weeks after placed, were delayed because of “the craziness of the past few weeks.”
Garrett said he is careful with his use of salt, concentrating on hills and intersections.
The borough does not plow or treat level side streets or state roads that cross it, he said.
“If we did, we’d use a lot more salt.”
Scott Collins, Lawrence County manager for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, said his salt supply is adequate.
“We loaned New Castle some material last week,” Collins said, adding, “We’re happy to do that, providing we have it. You don’t want to run out. That’s bad.”
However, he noted the current cold weather reduces the effectiveness of road salt.
“When it gets below 25 degrees, salt’s ability to melt snow and ice decreases,” he said. This is why the salt is mixed with anti-skid materials. The combination helps motorists to gain traction on hills, curves and intersections.”
Collins said he was happy to see the sun yesterday morning.
“The sun hits the black asphalt and reactivates the salt, even with low temperatures,” he said. “The combination of sun and salt is what we look for when it’s cold like this.”
(Email: nlowry @ncnewsonline.com)
(Reporter John K. Manna also contributed to this story.)