Bucks towns see 10% road salt increase

Many Bucks County towns and authorities avoided steeper salt prices last year, but the more than 50 member communities of the Bucks County Consortium that go with a Morton’s Salt bid of $

Winter might be a few months away but the more than 50 member towns and authorities of the Bucks County Consortium are facing a slight increase in the cost for road salt for the 2019-20 winter season.

The Morton Salt bid of $48.50 per ton submitted to the consortium in August is a 58-cent increase over last year’s bid, and lower than what the consortium has negotiated for salt for two winters before that.

The consortium is a member organization for cooperative agreements among towns, including joint bidding for salt, heating oil and other supplies or services, according to the group’s website. The consortium had about 60 towns and municipal authorities as members in 2019.

Morton was the lowest of the five bidders who answered the consortium’s legal notice, which included a $65.89 per ton bid from Detroit Salt Co.

Consortium members aren’t automatically taking on the lowest bidder, as the governing boards of each member organization need to vote at their respective public meetings.

The Lower Bucks County Joint Municipal Authority approved the Morton bid Thursday night, while Warrington supervisors made the bid part of its consent agenda Tuesday.

The consortium’s salt bid notice indicated nearly 51,000 tons of salt could be purchased in this bid, which could mean more than $29,000 spent on salt this year overall.

A salt shortage last year saw skyrocketing salt prices for many towns across Pennsylvania — the Associated Press reported a Beaver County town saw a 95% jump in 2018 prices compared to 2017.

In the end, the final cost of keeping the roads clear in Bucks County this winter is going to come down to how efficiently each agency can use its resources.

Since winters span the end and beginning of two calendar years, a blizzard in December could mean less salt to use for the mid-March winter squalls that have hit the county over the past few years.

A Harleysville-based company might have something to supplement a town’s salt reserves in synthetic “ice-melt” that is about a year or so away from being ready for roads.

Nate Clemmer, founder and CEO of Branch Creek, says his company has already developed salt alternatives useful for sidewalks and parking lots, and they’re currently testing a formula that could help keep roads ice free in extremely cold conditions.

“We are developing a product that we’re going to trial and pilot this winter which would be a chloride-free alternative to bulk road salt,” Clemmer said in a phone interview Monday.

Clemmer said his product isn’t going to replace rock salt, but it could cut down in “over-application” of rock salt in extremely cold weather.

“Where we see the biggest issue, where we see the excess, is in particularly cold temperatures … in the outer edge of what road salt can actually do,” Clemmer said.

An early, similar product by Branch Creek called Entry uses a potassium salt that has a freezing point lower than -70 degrees Fahrenheit called potassium formate.

Clemmer added the synthetic ice melt could help reduce the corrosion salt can have on metal and salt levels in groundwater.