Pennsylvania helps its municipalities deal with a slippery situation
The state’s Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and Department of General Services have joined forces to help safeguard motorists as roads turn icy.
“Public safety is at the top of Gov. Rendell’s agenda, and by both agencies working together to address local-government needs, we hope we will resolve this road salt issue to ensure safer travel for Pennsylvanians this winter,” PennDOT Secretary Allen Biehler said.
Over the past several weeks, municipalities around the state indicated that they were having difficulty obtaining the road salt needed to deal with slippery roads this winter.
Following an assessment of local-government needs, the Department of General Services floated a supplementary salt contract to address the shortfall. The bids received did not meet the required state specifications and were as high as $185 per ton.
Consequently, PennDOT, after reviewing its salt supplies, determined that it could sell approximately 82,000 tons to municipalities during the course of the winter.
The Department of General Services began the state’s salt bidding process in July and was able to secure at least 1 million tons for PennDOT and more than 586,000 tons for more than 1,000 local governments that participated in the state’s COSTARS program. COSTARS – an acronym for Cooperative Sourcing to Achieve Reductions in Spend – is a Department of General Services initiative that can yield savings for municipalities by allowing local governments to “piggyback” on state contracts to buy various goods and services.
Sale will not be repeated
The state urged municipalities to join COSTARS to ensure that they have adequate salt supplies for next winter, as the first-of-its-kind PennDOT sale will not be repeated.
“Road salt is either very expensive or not readily available this year,” Department of General Services Secretary James Creedon said. “Under Gov. Rendell’s direction, DGS worked hard to get an extremely competitive price for PennDOT and its COSTARS customers. We avoided higher prices by acting early, which resulted in significant savings for taxpayers based on current market prices.”
The salt-strapped municipalities that plan to buy salt from PennDOT will pay $76.95 per ton – a considerable savings from current road salt prices on the open market. The price was selected in order to be fair to local governments that participated in the COSTARS salt contract, as well as to cover administrative expenses.
“We strongly urge municipalities to consider joining COSTARS, not only to get competitive pricing for road salt, but to take advantage of lower pricing on many commodities used by local governments,” Creedon said.
Local governments that indicated a need for road salt will obtain their supplies at PennDOT locations around the state beginning later this month.
Road salt prices rock city budgets
Communities in Pennsylvania aren’t the only ones coping with soaring salt prices.
In Naperville, Ill., city officials have seen a steep price hike.
“We are finding that the marketplace has tightened up on the supply side and rock salt prices have jumped dramatically,” Dave Van Vooren, Naperville’s public works director, told GovPro.com. “We’re managing that the best we can, as is true with other communities throughout the state.”
Last year, the city paid $39 per ton of salt. This year: close to $55 per ton, according to Van Vooren.
“Naperville participates in our state’s procurement process, where the state of Illinois solicits proposals on behalf of the state’s needs as well as municipalities that choose to participate,” Van Vooren explained. “That $55-per-ton rate is our price for the season, and we can buy up to 22,000 tons at that price. If we need more than 22,000 tons, then we will have to go back to the supplier and negotiate directly for a price above that guaranteed maximum in the state procurement contract.”
Van Vooren, who has been in the public works field for about a dozen years, has this advice for public purchasers seeking salt for their communities’ roads: “First and foremost, that they understand the procurement process – that they get to the market as soon as they can each year so that they can budget for and adjust if, in fact, the prices go up.” Van Vooren noted that the state of Illinois “bids thru the procurement process in June and July for salt delivery starting in September.”
At its Sept. 15 meeting, the Centerville (Ohio) City Council approved a contract with the Morton Salt Co. for 2,000 tons of salt at a cost of $207,820. This past year, Centerville paid $47.59 per ton for road salt, while this year the cost is $103.91 per ton, Centerville City Manager Greg Horn told the Dayton Daily News.
“That’s a 118 percent increase,” he told the newspaper. “This is robbery.”
The city bid through the Southwest Ohio Purchasing Group, which seeks bids for many counties throughout Ohio, trying to get a better price by going in together on bids, Horn added.
To view a Salt Institute fact sheet titled “Will There Be Enough Road Salt This Winter? Why ‘No bids?’”, click here.