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Towns report increasing cost for highway materials

  • The community sand pile at Peterborough’s DPW facility on Monday morning. Ben Conant / Monadnock Ledger Transcript

  • The community sand pile at Peterborough's DPW facility Monday morning. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The community sand pile at Peterborough's DPW facility Monday morning. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mason sand pit. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 11/19/2021 5:40:35 PM

Supply issues continue to plague towns, and could result in big hits as towns prepare for the coming winter, as snow-control materials are among those with rising costs.

Road agents and department of public works directors across the region have noted rising prices in sand, but an even sharper incline in the cost of salt.

“Salt is way, way up,” said Matt Blanchard, road agent for Bennington.

“These increases are directly attributable to increases in freight and fuel costs, driven largely by supply-chain issues related to the global pandemic, as the majority of salt used domestically is sourced overseas,” said Seth MacLean, director of Public Works for Peterborough.

Peterborough’s salt prices jumped from $63.16 per ton last year, to $78.49 per ton this year. MacLean said the increase wasn’t entirely unanticipated, and Peterborough’s Highway Superintendent, Tim Rose, purchased 100 tons of salt in July, while last year’s prices were still in effect. While Peterborough typically uses more like 700 to 800 tons of salt, that extra stockpile helped reduce those extra costs.

Like many towns, Bennington purchases its salt from Morton Salt in Portsmouth through a state bid. Last year, the price for salt from Morton was about $56 per ton. This year, that price jumped to about $76 per ton.

“It’s the biggest price jump I’ve seen,” said Roger Trempe, road agent for Dublin. “Last season, we even had a decrease. But it’s supply and demand. Like everything else, it’s going up this year, by a lot.”

Russ Boland, town administrator for Lyndeborough, said the price increase for the town was $58 per ton last year, and this year is $78 per ton.

“We use 600 tons a year, so that’s a $12,000 increase for us,” Boland said. “I actually called them to make sure it wasn’t a misprint, but no, that’s what it was.”

Mike Cloutier, department of public works director in Rindge, said he was told the explanation for the jump in price lies mostly with the shipping cost.

“Everything seems to be headed up,” agreed Dave Morrison, road agent for Mason.

Such a large increase for salt is compounded by how much of it towns use on their roadways to control snow and ice in New England. Greenville, the smallest town in the Monadnock region geographically, has only about 11.5 miles of maintained roads, said Road Agent Scott Leard, but still used about 330 tons of salt last year, and expects about the same use this year.

With an increase in salt prices for Greenville from $55.65 per ton this year to an anticipated $78 per ton next year, that means a $7,375 increase in that one item for the town.

Jim Morris, road agent for Greenfield, said the town has about 12 miles of paved roads, and uses between 90 and 120 tons of salt annually.

“Most of our roads are dirt, so it’s not as bad,” Morris said.

But in a town like New Ipswich, which has 54 miles of road, their salt use is significantly larger – about 1,000 tons a year, according to Director of Public Works Peter Goewey, making the increase hit even harder.

Other material costs are also rising. Some towns have their own sand pits, but for those that purchase sand from an outside vendor, those costs are also rising, though not on the same level as salt prices.

Dublin expects to pay $1 more per yard for sand this year, from $14 per yard to $15 per yard.

In Peterborough, costs are only up 41 cents on sand, from $9.49 per yard to $9.90, which MacLean said was directly contributed to fuel prices increasing, causing the sand to be more costly to truck.

Other costs associated with day-to-day business and road repairs are also on the rise.

“Fuel cost is going up. Parts are hard to find, and they’re more expensive. Unfortunately,” said Goewey. “Hopefully we don’t have a breakdown this year.”

Morrison said he recently completed a road-paving project, and hot asphalt is also up by about $2.20 a ton, and he has no idea where prices might land in the spring.

Costs for the plastic needed for culvert repairs is also up by about 30 percent.

“These things just add up,” Morrison said.

 Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 244, or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.

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