The request to the commission was for the purchase of materials to erect a portable storage building which may be used to hold road treatment materials

Public Works Director Darryl Lutz, after struggling to meet the salt and sand needs for the county during several winter storms, brought a new plan to resolve the issue to the Butler County Commission on Tuesday morning. The request to the commission was for the Public Works Department to purchase the materials to erect a portable storage building which may be used to hold salt or other road treatment materials.

“This is a new item in the 2014 CIP,” said Lutz. “What brought the subject of this item to the table was the lack of availability and access to salt materials for our winter snow treatments for the roads. For years and years, the county was able to purchase a bulk of material from the lead and zinc mines in southeast Kansas. The material was inexpensive and readily available on demand. We never before had a salt shortage in the county.”

In recent years, the county’s previous supplier for salt has become unavailable.

“Our trusted supplier got out of the trucking business several years ago,” said Lutz. “They also gave up their interest in the salt mines in Hutchinson. We no longer have that favored customer access to salt. This year, the winter storms hit us hard. For mild winters, we would have been OK, but this year, the salt mines were unable to keep up with the demand nationwide for salt. During the last two storms, we had to cut back on the amount of salt we used and at the current time, we are still having a hard time getting salt to replenish our supplies.”

The Public Works Department was forced to get creative in finding sources of salt during the last storm.

“The city of Augusta was in a crisis situation,” said Lutz. “They had to borrow some salt from KDOT and they also had to buy some from a contractor in Wichita. Because of our lack of ability to accurately store a sufficient amount of salt, we are considering purchasing an increased capacity of materials to store. This would enable us to buy a larger amount of materials on the off season. A fairly inexpensive solution to do this is to purchase a portable storage solution.”

The materials for the portable storage, while durable, are not expected to be as costly as the construction of an actual building.

“This storage will be a tarp-type structure on a metal frame,” explained Lutz. “What we’re envisioning doing right now is construct a stacked block wall. It will give us some portability if it needs to be moved to another location. For about $30,000 we would be able to purchase the materials needed to construct the storage and it would store an additional 1,000 tons of salt. That amount would double our current storage capacity. We are able to currently store 700-800 unmixed tons of salt and another 2,000-3,000 tons of mixed materials.”

The commission seemed unsure whether doubling the amount of salt storage would be completely necessary for the county.

“Will you really need to keep all this salt behind?” asked Commissioner Peggy Palmer. “Does salt get old?”

“No,” explained Lutz. “This salt has been in the ground for millions of years. Other than a stipulation that the salt does not get wet, we should be able to use it freely without any problems.”

“So if you don’t use the salt this year, you could use it the year after,” said Palmer.

The storage, which will be built in the north shop in El Dorado, is several miles away from the current storage facility in Augusta.

“We’re thinking about putting this storage in El Dorado,” said Lutz. “It might keep things from getting backed up. The structure will be set up in the yard in an open area at the shop. We don’t have perimeter fence issues in El Dorado like we do in Augusta. The only items that will be purchased will be the concrete blocks. We have some in storage already and we buy them whenever we get the chance. We would like to go out and begin seeking proposals so that my department would have sufficient time to look them over.”

Lutz went on to explain that the county, during the most recent storms, spent more than $50,000 on materials to treat the roads. Before the county’s supplier left the business, the county was paying $35 a ton for salt. Currently the county is paying $46 a ton for salt and during the storms, more than 1,000 tons of salt were purchased.

The commission questioned why salt was suddenly so difficult to obtain.

“The salt shortage was an operational blunder by the mines,” explained County Administrator Will Johnson. “They took a chance in hopes we would have a mild winter and reduced their reserve storage. When the large storms began to hit all over the country, they were not able to get the salt out to everyone fast enough.”

“I realize that we had this shortage just this year,” said Commissioner Ed Myers. “But isn’t doubling our storage capacity overly generous?”

“If we run into back to back storms, we will run short on salt,” said Lutz. “In a typical winter, we will use everything in our storage. If we have this storage facility in place, things will be different. Once we start to use the salt, we can begin reordering. That way, if there is a delay and we cannot get salt in, we won’t get hung.”

“Is it cheaper to buy the salt on the off season?” asked Commissioner Jeff Masterson.

“It is much cheaper to buy these materials in the summer when we are not having to use them immediately,” said Lutz. “Last year, our salt storages were filled in July. We had all of our buildings full in Augusta.”

The commission, concerned about the lifetime of the materials used for the storage, questioned Lutz about their durability.

“These tarps and structures are very heavy duty,” explained Lutz.

“They’re 50-year tarps,” said Masterson. “You see them in Texas all the time. They’re made from some heavy duty materials.”

“The only maintenance I could foresee at this moment would be the re-stretching of the tarps, which has to be done every few years,” added Lutz. “We will also have to have a very good anchoring system because of the winds.”

Lutz went on to explain the funds for the structure will be found in the current 2014 CIP budget.

Commissioner Dan Woydziak moved to approve the authorization of the Public Works Department to seek proposals and the motion was carried 5-0.

The commission also:

• approved the appointment of Sasha Lawson to the Board of Directors for Flinthills Services, Inc. to fill the unexpired term for District 2, beginning April 1.

• approved the 2013 Board of Directors for South Central Mental Health.

• received Matt Engels from the City of Towanda and listened to his praise of the current inter-local agreement regarding the Butler County Sheriff’s office providing officers to patrol the city.

• approved the director of Facilities Management to seek bids for the replacement of controls for the East Annex elevator.

• approved the bid for the purchase of two Etnyre asphalt distributors from GW Van Keppel of Wichita for the amount of $339,594 without trade-in.

• approved the 2014 Countywide Cleanup Program for Butler County, which will take place from April 12 through April 19.

• approved the appointments to the Butler County Solid Waste Planning Committee for Term B positions and vacant positions. The Term B appointments were: City of 2nd Class, Brad Meyer, El Dorado, Municipal at-large, Rick Lanzrath, Andover; Municipal at-large, Joy Nelson, Cassoday; Municipal at-large, Kirk Hayden, Rose Hill; Unincorporated areas, Sandy Koontz, County; General Public, Van Pooler, County; Recycle Coordinator, Linda Johnson, County; Butler Community College, Don Rummelfanger, county. Those appointed to Term A and C Vacant positions were: County Zoning, David Alfaro, County and County Commission, Peggy Palmer, County.

Kari Adams can be reached at