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Road salt shortage necessitates creative solutions for winter

MILWAUKEE COUNTY (CBS 58) -- The first day of fall is Saturday, but snow removal businesses have been planning for colder weather for months.

Local contractors are dealing with a road salt shortage, and some of them are coming up with creative solutions to ensure they can keep neighborhoods safe.

Jay Felton is the president and CEO of Winter Services, a commercial snow removal company that contracts with shopping malls, hospitals and airports, to name a few.

Earlier this week, Felton had 30,000 tons of road salt shipped in to the Port of Milwaukee from Chile, South America.

He says his domestic suppliers couldn’t meet this winter’s demands.

"Salt supply is so far depleted that there wasn't much to sell to anybody except municipalities this year, so a lot of contractors didn't have a choice but to go and find resources either in other states, bring them in by train or do what we did which is bring in an entire boat," Felton said.

Felton’s trucks are now working to transport the enormous pile of salt to sixteen storage locations across Wisconsin.

While Felton looked internationally for a solution, some of his competitors simply ordered early.

Timothy Brennan’s landscaping company, Brennan Landscaping Inc., works on a much smaller scale, but they stocked up on salt in July and have been sitting on it ever since.

"The distributors are going to take care of their biggest customers first and that's not me,” Brennan said. “It's the highway departments and the municipalities."

Without those first dibs, Felton and Brennan had to get creative to procure their supply, because in their business, running out of salt is not an option.

Both men say municipalities have been known to reach out to contractors like them for help when salt runs low, but that usually comes later in the winter.

Brennan says it’s unusual to be faced with shortages this early in the year.

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