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Niagara County exhausts $275,000 road salt budget, as $150,000 more is expected to be approved

LOCKPORT – The Niagara County Legislature is expected to vote March 3 to come up with an additional $150,000 to refresh the county’s wiped-out road salt budget.

Michael F. Tracy, deputy public works superintendent for highways, said the brutal winter has exhausted his entire $275,000 salt allocation in less than two months.

Also, he said, one of the major factors has been a 27 percent price increase in November by the county’s salt dealer, American Rock Salt.

“They went from $34 a ton to about $50 a ton for road salt,” Tracy said. “We usually buy between 5,200 and 7.200 tons per year, depending on the severity of the winter, and right now we’re at 5,500, so we’re not that far out from where we would normally be. But it’s just been unprecedented.”

“The intense weather we’re having is coming home to roost,” Public Works Commissioner Kevin P. O’Brien told the Legislature’s Public Works Committee last week. “We’re using a tremendous amount of salt.”

Tracy said the county started the winter with about 1,000 tons of salt left over from last winter, and as of Friday, something between 200 and 400 tons was on hand.

“These little 1-inch or 2-inch snowfalls are actually more costly then a 4-, 5- or 6-inch snowfall, when it comes to salt usage.” Tracy said.

There’s a lot of salt piled up in the snow on county roads, waiting for slightly warmer temperatures. “Salt will work in the sunshine down to about 10 degrees or so,” Tracy said. “The minute the sun goes down, you’re frozen again. If you get below zero, basically the salt you’re putting on the street today is serving as a grit.”

The $150,000 being added to the budget, which is coming from the surplus in the county road fund, should get the county through the winter and leave a salt supply for next winter. “I’ve got to think what I’m going to need for this fall, and it’s a crapshoot,” Tracy said.

As for overtime, Tracy said he has used up about half of his $70,000 overtime budget for the year.

“No matter what, I’ll have enough to get through spring,” Tracy predicted. He said that he uses some overtime on paving jobs during the summer but that nothing can compare with winter.

In other road-related matters, the Public Works Committee approved a $782,340 contract with Mark Cerrone Inc. of Niagara Falls to replace the Youngstown-Wilson Road Bridge over Six Mile Creek in Porter. It was the lower of two bidders.

email: tprohaska@buffnews,com