City in need of rock salt

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   Rock salt supplies have hit rock bottom for the city of Elizabethton.
   To keep streets clear, the Elizabethton City Council will be asked to approve the purchase of an additional 600 tons of rock salt as winter weather continues to keep roadways potentially treacherous across the region.
   "The street department had requested we go back to council and buy an additional 600 tons," said Gene Deloach, the city's director of purchasing. "And if it keeps this up, we'll use it."
   The city's street department exhausted the 900 tons of salt on Jan. 23 after the snow blanketed Northeast Tennessee. Deloach said the purchase will request the city buy up to 600 tons of salt to use on streets and roadways with a price tag of $23,790.
   The city approved a bulk rock salt purchase along with eight other local governments and East Tennessee State University in October. The bid was accepted for a minimum estimated usage of 900 tons.
   With additional use of existing supplies, Deloach said the department had used over 1,000 tons of salt this winter.
   "I've been here 12 years, and I don't recall us using this much," said Deloach. "Usually, you'd use 200 or 400 tons of salt or 600 tons at the most."
   The city joined Knox County, Knoxville, Johnson City, Bristol, Tenn., Jonesborough, Church Hill, and Mount Carmel in a cooperative bid to purchase rock salt in bulk. The low bidder accepted was Central Salt, LLC, at $39.95 per ton. Each entity executed their own contract with the supplier.
   "We can buy at the same price that Knoxville and Knox County buys, which is good because we can save quite a bit of money," Deloach said.
   Mild winters kept streets primarily clear during recent years. However, a series of weather patterns have dumped snow on the region beginning in late December and continuing through January. Deloach said the severe weather dealt a blow to the city's already tight budget year.
   "We've been fortunate that winters have been so mild in the past," he said. "Now you may have to go out once in the morning, again in the afternoon and another time at night. If we've used over 1,000 tons, you can imagine what Knoxville and Knox County have used."
   Elizabethton received approximately three to four inches of snow Thursday night, and light snow fell periodically yesterday. Last night, meteorologists predicted a 30 percent chance of precipitation for the area and ten percent on Tuesday.