Franklin Township residents could find themselves on a very slippery slope this winter because of a statewide salt shortage, according to the Franklin Township trustees.
"Is the inventory severe? Yes, across the whole state," said Chairman Tim Guyton.
He did not want to speculate how severe this shortage is, but said it is affecting everyone.
Franklin County Engineers are holding a mandatory meeting that Guyton and Jim Stevens, the township road and maintenance supervisor, will attend to confirm the township’s salt prospects. The meeting is not open to the public, but Guyton said he will discuss what he finds out at an upcoming township meeting.
Trustee Don Cook said there is only one salt company in Ohio that supplies all government municipalities, Cargill Deicing Technology.
According to Cook, the shortage is happening because Cargill’s salt stockpile was used up during the heavy snows last winter, including the 20-inch snowfall that buried central Ohio.
"I’m sure they knew in the summer months and last year that they were running low. If we have a bad winter this time and they don’t get a chance to get their stockpile up, we’ll have the same problem next year," said Cook.
Guyton said the shortage is not only a result of heavy snow, but also a matter of economics.
"From what I’ve been told, they’ve been mining as much as they can as fast as they can, and they just can’t keep up with supply and demand," said Guyton.
Guyton and Cook both agree the township may have to look at creative alternatives to normal salt use. One of those alternatives is sand.
"Sand is not a melter, it’s just a traction. There’s stuff called brine. You have to have a liquid distribution, it’s almost like you carry a tank around…it’s a saltwater mix," said Guyton.
Brine must be distributed before the snow falls.
"The trucks go out and they put all the stuff down and we get no snow. Waste of money, waste of labor, waste of fuel," said Guyton.
Cook said the township may have to bypass salting side streets, so that notoriously slick intersections get adequate protection.
"I think city-wide and state-wide you’re not going to see the salt spread you saw in the past," said Cook.
Another issue is the price of salt has skyrocketed.
"We’re near 45 percent higher, or more, in costs. We paid $49 a ton before, so if you just do the math, that’s going to be $65, $70 dollars a ton, and we used about 200 tons last year. The 172 tons we had in the (salt) barn, plus what we bought afterward, was used and we would’ve bought more but the county cut us off," said Guyton.
Trustees voted two to one in favor of spending $2,100 to repair a 1994 Ford Superduty dump truck instead of replacing it. The truck is used primarily as a backup snowplow, in addition to two other trucks the township uses.
Cook, who voted against the repair, felt repairing instead of replacing the truck is a waste of taxpayers dollars, saying the township sunk $5,500 in it last year for repairs and so far in 2008 almost $2,400. A new truck, said Cook, would run between $30,000 and $40,000.
"Anyone see a train go through?" said Cook when the resolution passed. Cook later said he made that comment because he thinks taxpayers are getting duped.
"I just think that the taxpayers were really sold short and I think the meeting was cut and dried before they (Guyton and Trustee Paul Johnson) ever got there."
Not so, said Guyton. While the repair figures are correct, he claims a new truck is not as cheap as Cook proposes and the township has not had to make repairs until last year throughout the life of the truck.
"To replace this truck with an equivalent truck would be in the $50,000 to $60,000 range. As stated in our meeting and past meetings as well, $7,100 over 14 years, versus $50,000 to $60,000 for a new truck that we do not need anyway; which way saves the most money for the taxpayers?"
Guyton also denies discussing his vote with Johnson before the meeting.
"I had no idea how Paul would vote, but I knew Don’s stance because this is another example of rehashing the same thing over and over," said Guyton.
Franklin Township Police Chief Mike Castle addressed the issue of police coverage, saying that a lot of concerns people might have with response time is because Franklin Township contracts their dispatching service through Franklin County now, whereas at one time the township had its own dispatch service.
Castle said the county could hold a call for a while before the township knows about the situation, but the township does not have control over that.
Township resident Mary Nemeyer said her neighbor had a garage break-in and it took 45 minutes to get a response. She assumed the delay was a lack of officers on duty.
"No. There were three officers on duty (that night). The way the run got called in was it wasn’t in progress, so our response time isn’t any different," said Castle.
Castle explained if the burglar were still in the house, they would have gotten a faster response.
"We’re covering the township. It might not seem that way but it has to do with modern technology and the way things are moving," said Castle.