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WNIJ's summary of news items around our state.

DeKalb, Rockford Ready Winter Salt Supply

Larry Stephens

Many Illinoisans are thinking ahead to the coming winter. DeKalb and Rockford Public Works officials are no exception. Both offices already have plans for their road salt supplies.

Gilbert Sebenste, staff meteorologist at Northern Illinois University, says that residents may not be thrilled by the news, but it looks like this winter will be just as cold as last year -- if not colder.

But, he adds, nothing is guaranteed.

“So all we can say at best is that the forecast leans toward a colder-than-average and snowier-than-average winter from Dec. 1 all the way through the end of February.”

Officials with the state’s Central Management Services say more than 560 communities participated in the solicitation for road salt bids in July. Of those, 367 received bids from vendors.

That means nearly 200 had to look elsewhere and buy from independent suppliers--and usually for a higher price. The salt prices per ton almost doubled for those towns since last year, from about $60 to $100 per ton.

Rockford is among those communities that had to find an alternative.

Rockford Public Workd Director Tim Hanson says the city will not receive cheaper salt prices from the state this cycle, but it has 10,000 tons so far. If need be, he says Rockford could get more.

“Public safety is first and paramount--I have to make sure that our main roads are salted and they’re clear.”

T.J. Moore is the director for DeKalb Public Works. He says the city has a contract with the state to buy at least 2,800 tons, but the city could get more if needed.

“And so there have been spikes in prices and some communities haven’t been able to get the state contract and have had to go out on their own. Fortunately, DeKalb isn’t one of them--we signed onto a two-year agreement, so we’re still part of the state program.”

Moore says the contract with the state ends in 2016. After that, the city will decide whether to continue to receive lower salt prices from Illinois.

Moore says maintaining safe road conditions in DeKalb would be slightly different than in Rockford. For example, the city asks area farmers to leave two or three rows of corn along roads at risk for snow drifting and icy conditions. But for the most part, DeKalb would still salt main roads and intersections just as any other city would.

“We have neighborhoods, and they have neighborhoods, so your snow-fighting techniques are going to be largely the same.”

Side streets won’t always have bare pavement unless a storm rolls through. The main streets, intersections and other statistically at-risk areas will be bare as can be in DeKalb and Rockford.

Both Moore and Hanson say the calculated amount of salt ordered for the coming winter--regardless of supplier--is determined by crunching numbers from past years. It’s not necessarily decided by weather projections.

Updated Nov. 21, 5:30 p.m.: Correction. A previous version of this story said an ordinance required farmers to leave a few rows of corn along roads to help with winter conditions. DeKalb does not have such an ordinance--rather, the city asks area farmers to leave the rows of corn to help with road conditions.