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Will county have enough road salt this winter? : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Will county have enough road salt this winter?
No bids received through state program; county seeking bids directly

by Matt Schury


The calendar might say July but the chilly prospect of running out of rock salt this winter is already being considered by Kendall County officials.

County Board Chairman John Shaw said this week he is concerned the county may not have enough salt this winter or will end up paying high prices to get it.

Shaw said he learned a couple weeks ago from Fran Klaas, the county's highway engineer, that the county received no bids for rock salt through the state of Illinois Central Management Service (CMS).

Klaas explained that the county put its bid in for salt through CMS and was surprised to learn on July 17 that they received no bids. He added that CMS pools government agencies bids for salt, including Kendall County. Out of about the 600 agencies in CMS's pool of bidders 196 received no bid from salt vendors, according to Klaas.

"None, zero, nothing. Not that they didn't get any good prices, they didn't get a bid," Klaas said. "Basically a third of the agencies that wanted to bid salt got no bid."

Kendall County had to rebid its salt prices this year. Klaas explained that CMS only allows agencies to renew their current contract for salt once and then they have to go out to bid again.

"We came out of a bad winter not being able to renew our bid," Klaas said, adding that the last two years the county paid about $54 per ton for salt and he has hear salt prices this year around the state coming back as high as $140 per ton.

With thoughts of the polar vortex still fresh in people's minds, Shaw said that cities, towns and counties have been trying to get as much salt as they can in anticipation of a repeat of severe cold this winter.

"Everybody is worried about running out because they did last year," Shaw said. "We're not up a creek but if we have a brutal winter we're in trouble, that's what he's (Klaas) saying."

Klaas said that when he found out the county received no bids he began contacting salt vendors to get price quotes. He said that he got a few prices that he liked and talked to Shaw who proposed calling a special emergency meeting of the Kendall County Board to vote to allow Klaas to accept the quoted price after no bids came back.

The special meeting was set for July 25 but had to be cancelled, Shaw said, after the State's Attorney's Office said holding the meeting would violate the board's rules of order.

Assistant State's Attorney Leslie Johnson said she advised the board to cancel the meeting because even though they posted notice 48 hours in advance of the meeting as required by the Illinois Open Meetings Act, the county's own rules of order says they must post any special meetings five days in advance and with at least one-third of board members signing off on it.

Under the board rules of order a special meeting has to be declared by at least one-third of the members or four members, Johnson said, have to sign off on the meeting. The members have to sign a notice for the meeting and file it with the clerk. A special meeting cannot be held earlier than five days from the time the written notice of the meeting is mailed to all members.

"The special meeting was requested about 48 hours prior to when the meeting was going to be held and that did not comply with the board rules of order," she said.

Klaas said that he subsequently put out a bid notice again just for Kendall County's salt and expects to open those bids Aug. 12. The County Board is expected to discuss the issue at their Aug. 5 meeting.

Klaas said that he feared if the county waited the price for salt would continue to climb as municipalities, counties and townships in Illinois are all clamoring to get more salt than usual. The demand is high, Klaas said, which is driving the price up.

The July 25 canceled meeting agenda contained only one action item-"Declaration of an emergency to waive the bidding process and enter into a contract to purchase up to $150,000 of bulk rock salt for the 2014-2015 winter season."

Shaw said he called the meeting as an emergency but he added that there seems to be a difference of opinion.

"What we viewed to be an emergency was not an emergency," Shaw said. "If we run out of salt in February it's an emergency but if the reason we run out of salt is caused in July, then it's not."

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