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County Board OKs road salt purchase

Supplies "very low" early into snowy winter

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014 5:35 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014 12:07 a.m. CDT
(H. Rick Bamman
An Illinois Department of Transportation plow is obscured by blowing snow on Route 47 north of Huntley.

WOODSTOCK – A very snowy winter so far and potentially yet another freezing rain event this weekend prompted a short-notice Tuesday vote to allow the McHenry County Division of Transportation to buy more road salt.

The County Board voted, 19-0, to allow the DOT to spend up to $300,000 to purchase more salt. The money is already set aside in the DOT’s budget, but a vote was required to authorize spending it.

Transportation workers have been on the job clearing and salting roads every day since Dec. 8 except for one Saturday, Maintenance Superintendent Mark DeVries told County Board members. In that time, they have responded to at least 41 snow events, including three for freezing rain.

As a result, he said, the county’s supply has gotten “very, very low.” The county DOT maintains and is responsible for plowing about 550 lane miles.

“We’ve pretty much lived at the DOT over the past month, and winter is just beginning,” DeVries said.

The most recent significant snow event dumped between 3 and 6 inches on the McHenry County area last weekend, which was followed Monday and Tuesday by a record-setting cold snap that plunged temperatures Monday evening to close to 50 degrees below zero with the wind chill.

The coldest temperature observed in the area, not including the wind chill, was minus 20 degrees in McHenry on Monday morning, according to the National Weather Service.

The county is not alone in worrying about its salt supplies. The city of Crystal Lake said Monday that it has used up about 80 percent of its winter salt on hand.

DeVries estimated Tuesday afternoon that the DOT will be able to buy about 4,000 tons of road salt with the released funds. The salt will come from a vendor in Chicago because the one the county contracts with is located in Indiana, where the most recent winter storm and cold snap has shut down the roads.

The next chance for snow in McHenry County is Friday, with a 50 percent chance of a wintry mix of snow, rain and sleet. A slight chance of rain, because of temperatures above freezing, is forecast for Saturday.

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