The Kennebec Valley Council of Governments is working to connect several communities in the region with companies that distribute road salt after municipal leaders expressed concern about keeping roads safe as salt supplies dwindle.

Officials in several communities that have contracts with Morton Salt, including China, Richmond, Windsor and Winslow, said this week they were experiencing delays in shipments.

Municipalities can go through larger organizations, such as KVCOG or the Maine Department of Transportation, for road salt and to get better pricing, according to Gabe Gauvin, environmental planner for KVCOG.

Communities that are members of KVCOG, for example, can let the organization know how much salt they need for the year. KVCOG then takes the total amount and seeks to negotiate a better price based on a large order.

Last year, 30 communities participated in KVCOG’s joint road salt purchase, according to Gauvin.

Paul Fongemie, director of the Department of Public Works in Winslow, stands Monday where road salt is usually stored at the town’s Public Works yard. Like many communities in the region, Winslow was running low on salt due to delays in shipments, but has since received deliveries. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file

“A number of other planning organizations do these types of programs for joint purchasing,” Gauvin said. “You get communities involved and you have a net amount of salt to leverage for better prices.”

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Many municipalities seeking to buy road salt go through the Maine Division of Procurement Services. That is where the problem came this year. The department’s program selected two salt suppliers — Chicago-based Morton Salt and Maine-based New England Salt Co.

Morton sources its salt from Chile and is awaiting a delayed shipment. A statement released Monday said the company plans to refill one of its two salt sheds in Maine by the end of the week.

An employee at New England Salt declined to comment Wednesday when reached by telephone.

KVCOG went with New England Salt, Gauvin said, and the company told him it had enough salt to provide emergency orders from other communities. Gauvin said he has also contacted other salt companies with which KVCOG has worked to see if they were able to assist.

Gauvin encouraged any KVCOG member communities that are  experiencing problems to contact him. He said the organization would work to connect the communities with another salt company. He said four municipalities contacted him Wednesday to seek assistance.

“We are trying to reach out to towns in our region, Kennebec County and Somerset County, and say, ‘Hey, just because you didn’t choose us this year, you’re still members and you can still use our service,'” Gauvin said.

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Paul Fongemie, director of the Department of Public Works in Winslow, said earlier this week the town was running low on salt, waiting on deliveries from Morton.

The town received three shipments of salt Tuesday, including an emergency order from New England Salt and two from Morton, according to a post on the town’s Facebook page.

The post reported Morton said it had to “scrape out” the Portland yard for the salt orders, and it was the last load it could provide the town until Morton receives a shipment.

“We will continue to keep the public updated when there are supply issues that may affect driving conditions,” the post read. “Thankfully this last storm was small, came in mostly overnight when traffic is minimal, and temperatures are warming throughout the day.”

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