Last winter's weather took a toll on supplies of road salt both here and across the state.
As a result, nearly 200 Illinois communities are scrambling to find road salt, according to state officials.
Locally, the Crawford County Highway Department has yet to receive a quote for salt this year.
County Engineer Justin Childress said northern counties have started receiving their prices for the year, so he expects it to "filter down" in the next couple weeks.
Childress' fellow county engineers have told him most of the prices they have seen are in line with last year, maybe $1 or $2 more per ton. One county, however, received a quote 25 percent higher. Another received a quote that was actually lower, but only by 10 to 15 cents per ton.
The county has 40 to 50 tons of salt left over from last winter, Childress said. During a typical winter, his department goes through 150 to 200 tons. Last year, it used 350 tons.
"I'm really hoping we don't have another winter like that," he added.
Robinson City Engineer Jeff Hillard handles road salt orders for the Robinson Street Department. He was unavailable for comment, so information on possible quotes was not available. Superintendent of Public Works Lawrence Quick, however, did say the city has one full bin of salt - about 100 tons - on hand.
If public works departments around the state are able to find vendors willing to sell them road salt, they may face having to pay as much as double what they paid last year, according to the Illinois Department of Central Management Services.
Earlier this month, the agency informed many city and county officials in charge buying road salt that no vendors responded to their requests for bids.
More than 560 communities participated in the solicitation for road salt bids, said department spokesman Mike Claffey. Of those, 367 communities received bids from salt vendors and 195 did not. The department offered to seek new bids from vendors, while cautioning public works departments to explore other alternatives.
Demand appears to be driving up prices, state officials said. Municipalities that did get bids from vendors are looking at prices ranging from $70 to more than $140 per ton. Last year, the going rate was $55 to $65 per ton.
The shortage of salt has some local officials worried about hoarding. In Winnebago County, village of Roscoe President David Krienke told WIFR-TV in Rockford he hopes "everybody purchases the salt they need" and don't "get greedy."
Others are looking for ways to stretch salt supplies. Lee County Engineer Dave Anderson told the (Dixon) Telegraph the county will mix salt with limestone chips.
"The limestone chips will extend the life of the salt and it will add grit on the roads," Anderson said. "It will provide additional traction in the slippery road conditions."
The joint procurement process is a service the state provides to communities that choose to participate.
"We see it as part of our mission to help local governments procure road salt and other supplies, so that they can benefit from the economies of scale that come from buying in bulk," Claffey said.