Some Councillors salty over $3 million road salt budget

Image of Shawna O'Neill
By Shawna O'Neill
Some Councillors salty over $3 million road salt budget
A sidewalk is cleared of snow by a machine.

UNITED COUNTIES, Ontario – SDG County Councillors debated about the region’s winter road salt usage on Monday, July 15, before passing a motion that approved a $3.1 million tender.

The joint tender, issued by the City of Cornwall, includes the supply, delivery and loading of winter road coarse rock salt from Compass Minerals Canada Corp. for $105/tonne, based on an approximate requirement of 30,000 tonnes per season.

Mayor of South Stormont Bryan McGillis was quick to express his concerns with the product and price tag.

“I can’t support this motion with what the facts are here and the adverse effects of salt on our environment,” said Mayor McGillis.

Mayor McGillis, who expressed concern about the topic at a previous council meeting, said he had spoken with a number of public works employees who agreed that coarse rock salt is not the most environmentally friendly option and many tonnes go to waste each season, with the county more realistically utilizing between 20 and 24 tonnes rather than 30. The same sources also expressed to McGillis that the method in which the salt is distributed is not always efficient and there is a level of run-off that does not stay on the roads.

In 2004, according to McGillis, the county spent less than half of today’s asking price, just above $1 million, for coarse rock salt. Mayor McGillis maintained that although excessive cost is something to consider, his main concern remains on long-term environmental impacts.

Ben De Haan, Director of Transportation and Planning Services, said that the County had not recorded exactly how much salt was used per season in several years and suggested that the inflation of pricing was a result of increased market demand for available supply.

Deputy Mayor of South Stormont David Smith, as well as Deputy Mayor of South Dundas Kirsten Gardner, agreed with McGillis’ concerns. Deputy Mayor of North Dundas Allan Armstrong proposed passing the motion with the intent of planning better for next year and having a discussion about what product could be used in place of salt. Deputy Mayor of North Glengarry Carma Williams reminded Council that the issue of road salt could not be considered in a vacuum and that it may influence other road maintenance endeavors or machinery.

“The way we’re set up right now, we can’t not use (road salt)…not to sound dramatic but lives depend on it,” said De Haan, who agreed to reassess pricing and formula options for the 2020-2021 winter road maintenance season.

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