Little Snow, Lots of Salt: Costing $$

By Leigh Dana

February 21, 2011 Updated Feb 21, 2011 at 7:37 PM EDT

Vestal, NY (WBNG Bingamton) The Southern Tier slides through another major snow storm from Mother Nature -- less than half a foot fell but that pattern of snow is costing local municipalities more money.

At 12:30 p.m., plow trucks in Vestal stock up on salt before hitting the roads for the afternoon.

The Greater Binghamton area hasn't been hit by many of the major snow storms this season, but it's the little ones that are pushing local municipalities to use up its salt supply.

"We use as much snow in a 6 inch storm as you do in a one inch storm. And we had a lot of those this year," said Union Highway

Superintendent, Donald Battaglini says, "We went through 14 days in a row where we had to salt at least once and a day and that's 240 lane miles of roadway. So that uses quite a bit."

The Town of Union has about 1,500 tons of salt left for the remainder of the season. In Vestal, not as much.

Vestal Highway Superintendent Brock Leonard says, "We used more this year than we had any year." The salt that's at the back corner of the storage unit has to last through the end of February, March to October, November and December of 2011. Usually at this time of year, it's piled high all the way to the middle of the storage unit."

This year Vestal will use more than 4,000 tons of salt. At $41 a ton, that's about $164,000 dollars.

This is a lot of money for small towns and villages to shell out.

"We have to have it. And people that have it to sell, if they can make a big dollar for it, then they probably will," said Leonard.

Senator Charles Schumer is asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate possible price gouging by companies that sell the salt to municipalities.

Some municipalities have seen their price per ton for road salt increase by 40 percent.

Schumer says the price has risen rapidly even when you factor in the increase in fuel costs to carry the salt.