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Village of Downers Grove not among nearly 200 communities lacking winter salt contracts

DOWNERS GROVE – Almost 200 Illinois municipalities have not been able to find road salt next season, but Downers Grove appears to be set.

The village has contracts with two vendors for a total of about 7,040 tons of salt. The larger contract procured through the state is for 5,040 tons at $55.35 per ton. The second contract, through DuPage County, is for 2,000 tons at $70.44, according to Downers Grove Public Works Director Nan Newlon.

Last year the village had one contract through the state for 4,200 tons at $55.35 per ton.

Salt contracts require the village to buy between 80 percent and 120 percent of the listed tonnage.

According to an Associated Press report, the 195 Illinois cities and villages which have not been able to find salt contractors could end up paying twice the amount they paid last year, if and when they find a provider.

The extra salt purchased by Downers Grove this year will end up in the new, larger salt dome approved by the village council this summer. The village hopes to avoid last winter's conundrum, when huge demand and frozen waterways, caused by the historically harsh winter, led to salt shortages in Downers Grove and the surrounding areas.

The additional salt capacity is part of a wider-ranging set of changes and improvements to the village's snow operations plan recommended by staff in response to last winter's service delays.

"The one thing about having an exceptional service level is it creates expectations in terms of whats going to happen in all circumstances," Mayor Martin Tully said. "There were some expectations that weren't met because some adjustment's needed to be made.

"You learn from that and make adjustments going forward."

Last year, a shortage of snow plow drivers due to injuries, a shortage of functioning snow equipment, the regional salt shortage, the configuration of snow routes and the number of snowfalls greater than 4 inches all contributed to the service delays, according to the staff report.

The village's new plan for next winter includes using existing employees previously assigned to other tasks to help with snow plowing. The village also recently purchased a 5-ton truck that will be used for snow operations, in addition to the new salt dome.

The village council also recently approved the construction of a larger salt dome for more storage.

Staff is also proposing changes to the 10 snow routes to improve efficiency, according to the report.

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