State and city officials say they have an ample supply of road salt for the winter, but they paid higher prices to get it.
Last year's harsh winter wiped out reserves in Minnesota and led to shortages in other states throughout the Snowbelt. That has triggered higher demand and prices for salt this year, said Mark Klein, a spokesman for Cargill's road salt business.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) will spend about $20 million on salt this winter, a modest 4 percent more than last year. Prices rose from $71 per ton to $74 this year, said agency spokesman Kevin Gutknecht. The agency will buy about 277,000 tons for the season.
"MnDOT is in good shape," he said. Like MnDOT, Minneapolis placed its order in early summer. Still, the city will pay 13 percent more for the 15,000 tons of salt it will use for the season. Prices rose from $58 per ton last year to $66, said Public Works Director Mike Kennedy.
St. Paul is feeling the squeeze with a 30 percent increase, said Alex Dumke, a public information officer for the city. This year St. Paul will buy about 16,000 tons of salt, paying $80 a ton for untreated salt, compared with the $61 it spent last year, and $96 a ton for treated salt, compared with $74 per ton last year.
That's still a bargain compared with places such as Ohio and counties in other Eastern states, where prices are more than $100 a ton.
The price spike comes after salt prices last year were at a six-year low courtesy of mild winters in 2011 and 2012, Klein said. The winter of 2013-14 served up a polar vortex, frequent snowfalls and prolonged cold, which forced many municipalities to use their entire supply.
To meet demand, Cargill has had its three mines working on Saturdays since midsummer, something that typically doesn't happen until January, Klein said.