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Pinch of salt prices strain some local government budgets in Ohio as they prepare for winter

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Higher salt prices are expected to pinch the budgets of some local governments in Ohio as they try to replenish salt supplies for the coming winter

State officials say salt prices for the Ohio Department of Transportation's summer stock-up are nearly double what the state paid in some counties last year and are climbing higher for winter refills. Department spokesman Steve Faulkner says the state, with its $2.8 billion road budget, will be able to handle the prices. But counties, cities and townships that didn't buy enough this summer may have to pull money from other parts of their budgets to cover the higher costs, The Columbus Dispatch (http://bit.ly/1u2FlbW) reported.

The department normally uses about 630,000 tons during an average winter, but used more than 1 million tons last winter.

Fred Pausch, executive director of the County Engineers Association of Ohio, said there's not a lot of "fluff" in county engineers' budgets

"It's definitely going to affect future road projects and future bridge projects," he said.

Fairfield County Engineer Jeremiah Upp said the 6,000 tons of salt he paid $290,000 for last winter would cost $400,000 for the coming winter, but he plans to accept the quoted price because he says the county will need the salt, especially if this winter is anything like the last one.

Buying salt on the state's contract in Mahoning County could cost more than $146 a ton this year, about five times what it cost last year.

The city of Campbell in Mahoning County spent about $20,000 of its $9 million budget on salt last year. The city's finance director, Mike Evanston, says Campbell will have to reduce expenditures in other areas and possibly defer some things until it gets through the winter.

"We just pray for nice weather," Evanston said."

Prices are higher this year because salt companies are replenishing their stockpiles while trying to respond to strong demand from government buyers preparing for another wet winter, said Ken Mayland, an economist in the Cleveland area.

Cargill Inc. spokesman Mark Klein says miners already are working Saturday shifts to produce enough salt.

"We've got the pedal to the metal in producing salt, but demand is so strong that it's resulting in some higher prices."

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