GRIMES, Iowa — Icy roads may cause drivers stress, but it used to crush the spirits of central Iowa public works directors emptying their salt storage. “There is no worse feeling for a public works agency than to know you are out of a critical aspect supply you need to keep roads safe,” said Bret Hodne, the public services director of West Des Moines.
In 2007, it plagued Des Moines, Windsor Heights, Clive, Waukee, Urbandale, West Des Moines, Pleasant Hill, Grimes and Johnston.
Urbandale Assistant Public Works Director Tim Stovie said, “We didn’t have enough storage at our facilities to last the whole winter so we had to bring in salt during the winter.” That salt only comes from mines in Kansas. In the winter demand is high and so are costs. Hodne said, “They have lines a mile and a half long waiting for trucks to be loaded and that was the problem. We couldn’t get salt in here fast enough.”
Needing a reliable delivery of salt at a moments notice but without having to individually build larger facilities, the nine cities joined together to build the Central Iowa Salt Storage Facility in Grimes. It holds 22,000 tons of salt. Hodne said, “Now we can take all that salt and get it pre-delivered earlier in the year and take advantage of much lower pricing.”
Waste Management Authority paid for the $1.2 million facility. It took just five years for the nine cities to return the favor. “We paid for the facility just with the savings we had in salt,” said Hodne.
Harsh winters are not the only reason for the salt storage in Grimes. Metro communities are growing rapidly, requiring new developments, which require new homes that require new roads which need more salt. “Not only the commercial and housing but logistically we have 56 square miles of territory and eight hundred lane miles of streets. It is a lot more than when I started 30 years ago,” said Hodne.
It is a model of teamwork paved in salt. “This was just a tremendous example and has been used as a national model for how other agencies can collaborate to solve a problem like we did,” said Hodne.
Pricing is not split evenly. The cities are billed for the amount of salt they purchase and store at the Grimes facility.