Winter chipping away at salt supplies

(WLUK/Eric Peterson)
(WLUK/Eric Peterson)

GREEN BAY - When it comes to this winter, there certainly isn't a shortage of cold and snow.

For those who have to keep the roadways clear, there may now be cause for concern. One of the weapons against winter is to pepper the roads with salt. But is that salt becoming scarce?

In a winter that seems to never end, public works officials are watching their inventories closer than ever.

“This is the emptiest it has been in about 5 years,” said Bob Bousley, Brown County Public Works Department operations manager.

Bousley is talking about salt in his emergency reserve barn. Three other bins are empty or close to it.

“We've gone through probably close to 25,000 tons of salt this year,” said Bousley. “We probably went through 12-16,000 tons last year. We're significantly over last year's budget, but we've had quite a bit more winter this year that we did last year.”

It's a similar story at the Green Bay city salt barn.

“Two thousand tons is a decent amount of salt,” said Chris Pirlot, Green Bay Public Works Department operations director.

Pirlot says each truck holds seven tons of salt. Crews spread brine, beet juice and calcium chloride to help stretch the salt supply.

“If we do need more salt, we've been looking at contingency plans probably for the last two months,” said Pirlot. “We've checked around with other communities and there's a couple of resources that if we do need some more salt, they said they have a little bit extra, so we can work a deal with them if we need some extra salt.”

Brown County gets expects a 4,000-ton shipment from Superior later this week.

“I'm a little concerned, but not overly concerned. I'm not losing sleep over it. Because Morton is under contract to get us the salt we have pre-purchased, our seasonal fill, and our vendor reserve, so it's up to them to get the salt to us,” said Bousley.

Meanwhile, crews continue to use what they have.

“As long as I have salt, we'll use it. Right now I have enough for a couple more storms,” said Bousley.

“Even though it's March, we last year, we had some snowfalls in April, so we still have a ways to go for winter,” said Pirlot.

We also contacted the Outagamie County Highway Department. They say supplies are tight, but they should make it through the winter.

The state has asked the department to conserve what they use, because any additional salt will be very hard to come by.