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Desperately Seeking Salt

A stormy winter is turning sand and salt into hot commodities in Mineola and across Long Island—despite Gov. Andrew Cuomo's pledge to send us an extra 400 tons of the stuff, 200 tons each to Nassau and Suffolk. 

 

“We are in a salt shortage,” said Tom Rini, village public works superintendent, adding that he has heard from neighboring municipalities, including North Hempstead and Oyster Bay, that their reserves are nearly tapped too. 

 

“There’s been challenges,” Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss said. “Normally, snow comes and goes, but this time, it’s decided to stay with us. The snow can only pile up so high. We’ve had flooding issues as well as salt issues.”

 

New York state has used 46,000 tons of salt in less than two months in 2014, according to state officials. This represents a 115 percent increase from 2013-14. The state typically uses 30,000 tons in a full year. Mineola typically uses a total of 600-750 tons in a year.

 

Rini estimates that one tour of spreaders through the village uses up 60 tons of salt and sand, and right now, Mineola has only about 70 tons of salt left, Rini guesstimates, meaning just enough for one round. That in itself is unusual. 

 

“We’ve always tried to maintain a stockpile in our sheds," he said. "Generally it’s full and we purchase throughout the season and have our sheds full for the next year.” 

 

The town has been tapping various supply sources, sometimes paying double the usual price, but it seems little is coming through. Mineola village reps said the DPW called its supplier, Staten Island-based Atlantic Salt, on Dec. 31 to get additional deliveries of salt.

Rini stated that Mineola has not received more than 300 tons recently ordered from Atlantic. An additional 80 tons purchased on Tuesday, Feb. 4 also haven’t arrived yet. Rini cited trucking problems due to the weight limits on some bridges. 

 

“I picked up the phone and called Senator [Jack] Martins and filled him in,” Rini said. “Salt is just not flowing to this region. I’m not trying to throw out any conspiracy theories, but things don’t seem to add up.”

 

Rini said North Hempstead and Oyster Bay, which are significantly bigger than Mineola, are also struggling to maintain supplies. Those towns use 500 tons in snowstorms, according to Rini.

 

“Everyone is having to switch over to sand or a sand/salt mix, which we have not had to do,” said Rini. “That may become a reality for us very shortly.”

 

Mineola reps discussed salt/sand allotments with Nassau County officials last Tuesday. According to village officials, the state offered an additional five tons. 

 

“Five tons is not enough to fill one truck,” Rini said. “We declined knowing we had just purchased more.”