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Salt price spike hits county budgets hard

Salt trucks
Sarah Hulett
Michigan Radio
Wayne County has outfitted its trucks to clear more snow faster, and to keep salt on the roads.

Advance word from forecasters: This winter could be a replay of the not-to-be-forgotten winter of 2013-2014.

That is not good news for counties still reeling from the costs of clearing record amounts of snow from the roads.

Roy Townsend, Managing Director of the Washtenaw County Road Commission, says the brutal winter last year cost the county nearly $1 million more than what a typical winter would cost. That's between the increased salt price, overtime pay for staff, and extra wear and tear on the equipment. 

This year, Townsend says many cities, villages and road commissions are buying salt in bulk as one group purchase. But compared to last year, the salt price increased 122% per ton. And that price increase could have a $500,000 impact on Washtenaw County's budget, according to Townsend.

What's more, the use of salt will break up the road and increase spending on road repair. 

"[Using salt] is a necessity, but at the end of the day it's also deteriorating the road system," said Townsend.

Townsend said he has been trying to lobby to raise taxes on gas and diesel. But the Legislature hasn't been able to agree on a plan to boost road funding.

* Listen to our conversation with Roy Townsend above.

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