Some towns in central Maine are struggling to keep roads clear as salt supplies run low

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WINSLOW – Paul Fongemie, Winslow’s public works manager, has about another load of road salt in the town’s salt shed on Monday, and he thinks it was enough to handle another round of snowfall in the forecast. , but beyond that it is not so certain .

Due to delays in the delivery of salt to Maine from where it comes from Chile, a South American country, some cities can run out of salt in the dead of winter.

“If it continues for another few weeks, it’s definitely going to be a problem,” Fongemie said.

His department placed a salt order with Chicago-based Morton Salt on Jan. 30 and the company promised in a Monday statement that it would restock one of its two salt storage facilities in Maine by the end of the week.

“Over the past month, customer orders for de-icing salt have increased due to the intensity and frequency of consistent winter storms in the region,” the statement said.

According to Kelsey Goldsmith, director of communications for the Department of Administrative and Financial Services, which includes the purchasing division, about 100 municipalities and colleges in Maine select a vendor through the Division of Administrative Services’ bidding process. supply from Maine, which leads to better prices. .

There are two salt suppliers this year: New England Salt Co., based in Morton and Bangor. Some towns, like Waterville and Skowhegan, which are supplied by the New England Salt Co. say they have plenty in stock.

Fongemie decided on Monday not to wait and placed an order with New England Salt which he was told will be delivered within 24 hours, although it will cost $20 more per ton.

“I can’t live without salt, the roads have to be safe,” Fongemie said.

The salt supplier agreement allows municipalities to purchase salt from another supplier if there is a “critical need” via a “non-delivery clause”, Goldsmith said.

Winslow’s salt shed is relatively small, holding eight or nine loads, with each load containing up to 33 tonnes of salt, often requiring additional orders during the winter, Fongemie said.

The state has been hit by severe storms in recent weeks, which have included a mix of snow, ice and freezing rain, leading to increased salt usage.

“We all bought a lot more salt earlier in the season because we had a lot of rain and snow, and well over 2 feet last week,” Fongemie said.

Winslow has a sand and salt budget of $165,000 and the city spent 63% of the budget on Monday but is on track to be under budget, according to City Manager Erica LaCroix. The city uses about 2,000 tons of salt each year, Fongemie said.

The city of China has used about 15% more salt this year than the past three winters, said public works manager Shawn Reed.

Reed said the Maine Department of Transportation, which helps municipalities supply salt, is working with Morton Salt to source from another company to deliver the product faster. He said he understands the delays in the supply chain, but wanted more communication from Morton after orders started going unfulfilled recently.

“That’s the big deal, not knowing,” Reed said.

Sand is loaded onto a plow truck Monday in the Winslow Public Works yard. The sand is usually mixed with salt to spread over the ice and snow covered roads, but the city runs out of salt while waiting for a new shipment. Other towns in the region are experiencing the same problem. Rich Abrahamson / Morning Watch

Richmond and Windsor are also experiencing a backlog in receiving shipments from Morton.

Richmond City Manager Laurisa Loon said Morton had been “great to work with” despite the delays and the city had received three loads just in time for the snow that was expected Monday night.

Windsor City Manager Theresa Haskell said the city received a salt load on Monday but was still three loads behind. She said the city was not told why the orders were not being fulfilled on time.

Skowhegan Road Commissioner Don Kinney said the town received an order for salt on Monday and was well supplied.

“We’re all fine,” he said.

Waterville Public Works Director Matt Skehan said the salt was ordered late last week and delivered on Monday and the New England Salt Co. had not reported any supply problems.

Emily Duggan, editor of the Kennebec Journal, contributed to this report.


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