Winter depleted state salt supply in Brown County

BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - The number of vehicles in ditches Sunday and Monday had some people questioning whether the state highways were salted.

Empty state salt storage facility in Brown County (WBAY photo)

We found out they were, but we also found out Brown County had to dip into its own salt because the state supply was running so low.

"I think it was the weather itself and we weren't -- the county salts weren't -- able to get out there like they can because they are running low," Brown County Sheriff's Captain Dan Sandberg said.

Brown County Public Works said despite the scene, crews did salt the roads.

Brown County, for one, technically has two salt supplies: one for county roads and another managed and ordered by the state Department of Transportation for state highways.

After the snow and freezing rain of the past two weeks, one of the state's salt storage sheds was completely empty Monday morning, so Brown County used its own salt supply to help on interstates.

"The state salt is used for interstates and state highways, so the 43s, the 41s, the 172s, but we do use county salt to cover the state -- and vice versa at times," Brown County Public Works Director Paul Fontechhio said.

"Last week Wednesday, we had about 1,600 tons of salt in the county, and a typical storm is maybe 700 to 1,000 tons. And last Thursday is when we got all the challenging weather with the snow and the rain and freezing rain and cold weather, and it's kind of been winter ever since, so it took more than an average storm," DOT Northeast Region Maintenance Supervisor Chris Blazek said.

With more winter weather in the forecast, the state says it is quickly sending more salt to Brown County -- 1,500 tons of salt Monday and a total 4,500 tons this week -- so the county doesn't have to dip into its own supply again.

"This should get us through several weeks, but we are having weekly meetings at the state and keeping up on what we have and what we need to order, so hopefully there will be a steady stream coming in," Blazek said.

Brown County is also ramping up supplies, ordering 3,000 tons of sand for its own county roads this week.

"We will get 1,000 (tons of sand) today, we hope, and then Tuesday, Wednesday we will get the rest of it," Fontecchio said.

Both the state and county remind drivers there is only so much they can do on the roads. They remind everyone to slow down and take their time.

Fontechhio said the county and state often help each other out when it comes to dwindling salt supplies because in the end there's one thing that matters.

"We will continue to use whatever salt we have. It doesn't matter at the end of the day if it is county or state. What matters is, we are keeping people safe."

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