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Road salt shortage leaves county on slippery slope

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By Damon Lawrence

Roane County had between 60 and 70 tons of road salt remaining on Thursday, according to Road Superintendent Tom Hamby.

That was enough to get through one more snow event, he said.

“After that, I’ll be completely out,” he said.

And snow is in the forecast for today and early next week.

Trying to get more salt has proven difficult.

“I’ve been trying to order it, but where we’ve been buying, the state’s got it all tied up,” Hamby said.

Hamby said Burkhart Enterprises in Knoxville is the company he’s been trying to purchase from.

Tennessee Department of Transportation spokeswoman Yvette Martinez said the state has a contract with Burkhart, but she couldn’t comment on how that was impacting the need counties have for salt.   

“Since TDOT is not the supplier, I cannot comment on what suppliers are doing to try to catch up with the demand for salt this winter,” she said.

Salt has been in high demand in East Tennessee with a more-dramatic-than-usual winter season.

“We have had more snow events happen at the beginning of the winter, and it has come back-to-back, which has not given much recovery time for road crews or suppliers,” Martinez said. “Forecasters could not have predicted the challenge of this winter, which makes it tough for suppliers to know how to stockpile.”

Hamby said his department incurred around $35,000 in expenses from Jan. 10-14 because of snow and ice on the roads.

That included $19,650 for salt and $6,312 for overtime, he said.