Last updated: February 16. 2013 2:21AM - 260 Views

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Hold the salt.

That's what Pittston City and the other local towns are doing after a record mild and dry January and February.

Most municipalities buy salt for treating icy roads from the state which bids out for bulk purchases through COSTARS, Pennsylvania's cooperative purchasing program

COSTARS allows the state to keep the cost of the salt relatively low, but it also requires the municipalities to contract for a minimum of 60 percent of its order.

For example, for 2012, $20,400 of the city's budgeted $25,500 for snow and ice removal was for 350 tons of salt at $58.26 per ton.

This year, though the city has used only 10 percent of the 350 tons so far, it still must buy, under COSTARS, 60 percent of that 350 tons by July 31. That means the city will have a surplus of approximately 123 tons of salt.

Assuming no spring ice or snow storms are in store, the city will spend about half of the $25,500, leaving a surplus of close to $13,000. That's no windfall, but as councilman Mike Lombardo said, it's a nice cushion against an unexpected expense that may come up or, in the best case, it will be a budget surplus.

To greater and lesser degrees, the same scenario applies to all local municipalities

At the lower end, West Wyoming ordered two truck loads, or 46 tons, but used only one load. The borough will take possession of another truck load and store it in a shed it erected for that purpose with a state grant.

The salt, chemically sodium chloride, can be stored if it is kept dry. The seller of the salt, in most cases American Rock Salt, will store the surpluses for $10 a ton for towns that don't have a dry storage unit or a large enough unit.

Pittston has a new shed for storing salt - a metal and canvas truss system on blocks - which was built by Mayor Jason Klush and Public Works Foreman Sam Valenti.

City manager Joe Moskovitz said the men saved the city money. "I'd say we got a $15,000 storage unit for about $5,000," Moskovitz said.

The new shed may not hold the 123 tons, so a decision will have to be made by June as how to store the remainder.

In any case, Moskovitz said having surplus salt is "a nice problem to have."

The municipality with the largest budgeted amount for ice and snow removal is Jenkins Township at $75,000. The township estimates that, in a more typical winter, $30,000 of that is used for plowing and treating the roads in the Mericle Centre Point industrial development off Oak Street.

Jenkins Township ordered 500 tons of road salt, used about 100 and must buy another 240 tons to meet its 60 percent obligation.

Township manager Bob Jones said, so far, the township has spent only $15,000 of the budgeted $75,000, leaving $60,000. But Jones cautioned that calling the $60,000 a savings or surplus is premature because the money is budgeted for the calendar year, not just the winter season.

Though typically most of the snow and ice removal budgets are spent in January and February, a wintry fall and December this year could cut into the salt surplus and eat up some of the unspent money in overtime and ancillary costs.

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