Breaking: Rumors about DeKalb County road salt shortages clarified by highway officials

February 12, 2019

Communities in Illinois are starting to feel the effects of road salt shortages from state suppliers, and rumors are swirling around social media saying that DeKalb County is included. Rest assured, thought: The county is not out of salt. Not just yet.

DeKalb County Highway Engineer Nathan Schwartz said a lot of the Midwest is having issues with salt suppliers starting to run dry, but the county’s salt bins are “not full” but definitely “not empty,” either. If Mother Nature keeps throwing storm after storm at the area like it has the past few weeks, he said, the county will have to buy more salt either through the state or from private suppliers.

“And we are already looking at some possibilities for that, in case something does happen,” Schwartz said.

According to the National Weather Service, chances of precipitation the rest of the week in DeKalb County will be 40 percent or less. Schwartz said there shouldn’t be any issues with salt supplies, if that forecast holds up.

Generally speaking, Schwartz said, the county’s crew of 12 plow drivers will be plowing roads when it’s actively snowing and will typically salt at stop signs, but will wait until plowing is done before salting roadways.

“Which is a standard practice for most agencies,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz said that practice will be especially important when it comes to conserving road salt for the rest of the winter season.

Schwartz previously has said the county budgets $500,000 every year for salt, but about half actually is allotted for the county. He had said 31 other agencies – excluding DeKalb Township, the city of DeKalb and the city of Sycamore – piggyback off the county’s contract with the state, through which the county fronts the money to the state, and the other agencies reimburse it.

Andy Raih, streets superintendent for the City of DeKalb, said things are a little backed up with the city’s salt supply making it into the city, since deliveries were shut down because of the cold snap a few weeks ago. He said the city is not out of salt by any means, but there is a delivery frequency issue.

“With more snow and with back-to-back events, it’s just harder to have more salt coming to you,” Raih said.

Raih said the city is right at its state-required salt minimum. He said there’s still room in the city’s contract with the state to buy more salt if needed.

Raih said the city is running low on salt, but he’s confident it can get through the rest of the week.

“We hope to play a little catch-up and not be in the truck so much,” Raih said.

Schwartz said the county has bought all of its allocated salt for this winter, with $125,000 worth of salt still being delivered to the county. He said the amount of salt delivered to the county so far has varied from zero to eight truckloads per day.

“You just never know what you’re going to get from day to day,” Schwartz said.

Fred Busse, public works director for the City of Sycamore, said the city’s salt shed is about one-third full, and the city is below the contracted amount of road salt it requested from the state.

“We’ve got enough where we even feel like we might get a surplus at the end of the year,” Busse said.

Craig Smith, highway commissioner for DeKalb Township, said the biggest problem, from his understanding, is there are only a handful of companies that supply road salt across the country, which are all in high demand and are all delivering extremely large orders to areas that need it.

“So we all run out together and at the same time,” Smith said.

But the township has been reassured the salt it has on order right now will be delivered on time, Smith said.

“That should put us in real good shape for the rest of the year,” Smith said.

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