Kingsport looks ahead to winter, contracts for road salt

Matthew Lane • Jul 29, 2012 at 2:58 AM

KINGSPORT -- The first snowfall -- if Kingsport gets one at all this year -- is months away. But city officials have approved a contract, much like they do every year around this time, for the purchase of road salt to use during the upcoming winter season.

During its regular meeting Tuesday night, the Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved its yearly contract to purchase road salt. Kingsport is in a cooperative bid for road salt -- with Knoxville as the lead -- with 15 other East Tennessee governments and entities including Johnson City, Bristol, Mount Carmel, Church Hill and Elizabethton.

The contract this year again went to Cargill Inc. at a cost of $81.20 per ton. The estimated annual cost is $121,800 based on purchasing 1,500 tons, and the contract includes an option to purchase an additional 1,500 tons if necessary.

Kingsport typically tries to keep 1,500 tons of road salt on hand throughout the winter, but some recent bad winters have caused the Model City to rethink this strategy.

Over the past year, streets and sanitation employees have worked to build an additional salt storage facility near the existing storage facility, thus doubling the amount of salt the city can store in case of another bad winter.

"We worked on it, off and on, as we got a chance," said Ronnie Hammonds, streets and sanitation manager.

The new storage facility is a Quonset-hut style building with concrete walls and a metal roof, the construction of which took about two and a half months to complete at a cost of less than $100,000. Hammonds said the city had quotes of $150,000 to $180,000 for a contractor to build the unit.

"Our long-term goal for the past year was to have enough salt on hand to last us through the winter in case of resupply problems like we had three years ago," said Hammonds. "This (new storage facility) will do that for any winters except for probably the two worst winters we ever had."

The two most recent ones were in 2009 and 2010, when Kingsport was hit with some atypical winter weather -- 19 inches of snowfall in 2009 alone. These winters resulted in the city purchasing nearly 3,500 tons of road salt in 2009 (at a cost of $249,000) and 2,500 tons in 2010 (at a cost of $202,000).

Last year, Kingsport lucked up and only had a handful of incidents, using around 100 tons of salt, Hammonds said.

Kingsport's average road salt usage over the past eight years has been about 1,600 tons a year.

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