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      Road salt costs skyrocketing for road commissions this winter

      We may still be thinking summer, but Michigan road crews are already thinking about winter and what could prove to be a costly one.

      Last winter, Michigan saw record numbers of snow on the road, which caused the price of salt to sky rocket.

      This really all comes down to a supply and demand issue.

      Many salt companies ran out of supply, so the demand is higher this year, resulting in more money spent by Michigan road commissions.

      "The winter last year was severe for many people throughout the Midwest, not just in this immediate area," James Johnson, Leelanau County Road Commission manager, said. "The salt industry is struggling with that issue. Prices have gone up dramatically for us. It's going to mean somewhere around $45,000 more as a road commission for the salt that we need to provide public safety for motorists on our roads."

      Leelanau isn't the only county feeling the effects of higher salt prices.

      "In order to provide the same amount of service we provided last year, it's going to cost this road commission, if we were just using the same amount of salt, approximately $50,000," John Rogers, Kalkaska County Road Commission manager, said. "Just to use the same amount of salt that we did last year."

      "Our initial delivery is up 23 percent from last year, which means it's going to cost an additional $40,000 in the fall," Burt Thompson, Antrim County Road Commission manager, said. "With a minimum back up delivery of another $11,000."

      Paying the salt industry for these road commissions is much like paying your energy bills.

      "We cannot go out on the open market and find a number of vendors like buying cars," Johnson said. "Much like purchasing electricity at home, you have one vendor that's available and the price is what the price is. It's gone up a lot this year."

      The rise in price has road commission managers questioning salt companies.

      "There is no competition of salt companies," Thompson said. "In my opinion, they're just taking advantage of the taxpayers' money."

      According to Kelly Bekker, the Missaukee County Road Commission manager, their costs for salt are some of the highest in the state.

      Drivers may pay the real cost of expensive salt next year. Road commissioners say the money spent now means less money to fix roads come springtime.

      Joe Nedow, the the Leelanau County finance manager, said that a major salt company isn't selling salt at all because they're all out from last year. But, road commissions are ready and prepared for whatever conditons this upcoming Michigan winter brings us.