Tonawanda News

February 9, 2014


By Jessica Bagley and Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — As this year’s winter continues to slog on, local public works departments are experiencing a salt crunch with supplies continuing to dwindle just as the next storm moves into the region. 

Besides the steady onslaught of inclement weather, the root of the problem lies with a change in salt suppliers, local department of public works heads said.

American Rock Salt had been the main source of salt in the state for years before the recent switch to North American Salt Company, which is now bringing salt over from St. Catharines, Ontario, after exhausting its supplies in Lackawanna. 

The company isn’t meeting the demand of area municipalities due to bridge wait times and frozen waterways, including Lake Erie, which are used to transport the material. 

Locally, the Town of Tonawanda appears to be in the worst shape.

“We’re getting about 100 tons per day, but need 200 tons to get around the town once,” Town of Tonawanda Highway Superintendent William Swanson said. “I’ve ordered 2,000 tons and only received about 800 of it.” 

On Friday, the town received 200 tons, but had to save salt for the weekend as well, when 1 to 3 inches of snow were expected to fall. Swanson said he’s concentrating on salting the main roads and intersections. 

Per the contract, Swanson must order 7,000 tons before August. 

“I don’t think this has ever been an issue before. I have 38 years in, and I don’t remember this ever happening before,” he said. 

North Tonawanda Department of Public Works Supervisor Brad Rowles said he has already used more than double last year’s total of 3,750 tons of salt, as the city nears 7,000 tons this winter. But he said after getting slammed in November with a storm he contacted outside suppliers to stay ahead of the game. 

“We knew the demand was rising,” Rowles said. “I was told by one of my suppliers there was going to be a shortage coming up. We beat the rush.” 

At a cost of $35.96 per ton, the financial side of purchasing more salt is also taxing budgets, along with man-hours racking up overtime for plow drivers.

The City of Tonawanda has 75 tons of salt in its garage, Mayor Rick Davis said, and needs about 15 tons for a typical storm. 

“We are doing better than a lot of other municipalities, but we are running low just like everybody else,” he said. “It’s salt that we already paid for, and if the company can’t get the salt in, then there is nothing to disperse.” 

The city has been attempting to cut back on salting residential areas, and Davis said that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is looking at ways to supply upstate with more salt. 

“It’s been a typical winter, it’s been the winter I had growing up as a kid, when the snow would stick around for a while,” Davis said. “Winter has caught up with us this year.”