Peters fighting the road salt shortage battle

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Peters has always prided itself on road crews who work around the clock to ensure township roads stay safe in severe winter weather.

But now, with the region-wide shortage of road salt due to slowed barge traffic on frozen rivers, public works crews are scrambling to conserve resources where they can.

“We can weather a couple of events,” said Pete Overcashier, Public Works director, about the township’s current supply of road salt.

When asked by council members at a Monday meeting how supplies were, Mr. Overcashier said “not good.”

The township has a contract with Minneapolis-based Cargill Salt through a purchasing consortium of South Hills municipalities. Mr. Overcashier said the contract calls for the township to purchase an estimated 4,000 tons of salt at a rate of about $58 per ton. Under the terms of the contract, the township is obligated to purchase at least 80 percent of the estimate, and the company must provide as much as 125 percent of the estimated order for purchase at the contracted price.

But ice jams in area rivers are causing a delay in barge deliveries of salt throughout the region, which could end up costing Cargill and other suppliers dearly in liquidated damages.

Council members Monday discussed what those damages would be under the township’s agreement with Cargill. The company has yet to deliver 900 tons of salt that was ordered throughout late January and February.

Since last month, the company has been delivering partial orders when it can, Mr. Overcashier said. He estimates that the township has gone through about 4,000 tons of salt so far and will need probably another 1,000 tons to complete the season.

Under the terms of the contract, the company is obligated to deliver salt orders within five business days, but that hasn’t been happening due to the slowed barge traffic, Mr. Overcashier said.

"The unprecedented winter across the snow belt has led to huge demand for road salt," said Mark Klein, Cargill spokesman. "We are working overtime in our mines to try to keep up with the demand. The same weather that is causing the demand for salt is also slowing trucks, trains and barges delivering salt."

For every day that the company is late, 50 cents per ton is charged. Mr. Overcashier estimated the company owes the township about $4,300 so far and the amount will continue to accrue until the shortfall is made up.

In the meantime, road crews have been using a brine mixture whenever possible to conserve as much salt as possible.

In other business:

■ Council held a public hearing and unanimously approved a liquor license transfer for Ichiban Bistro, a Japanese steakhouse that plans to locate in Donaldson’s Crossroads, at the site of the former GNC and Hibachi Japanese Steakhouse.

Lawyer Gregory Szallar outlined plans by owners Qin Zhang, Shan Xi Ye and Shan Lin Ye to renovate the 7,600-square-foot space with a 10-seat sushi bar, 18 Hibachi stations and an individual seating area for 50 patrons. The restaurant would be open seven days a week and would seat a total of 200 people.

The trio own and operate two other Ichiban locations in Robinson and Cranberry, and have never been cited by liquor control for violations, Mr. Szallar said. They have invested “more than $500,000” in the new restaurant, he said.

Although the restaurant would serve an assortment of domestic and craft beers and cocktails, alcohol would comprise only about 10-15 percent of gross sales, Mr. Szallar estimated.

The license is being transferred from Chippewa Golf Club in Somerset Township, Washington County and still must meet state approval. Mr. Szallar said he anticipates an early April opening.

■ Township Manager Michael Silvestri reported that a resident in the Orchard Hill development complained about lights and noise from a gas well drilling operation at nearby Trax Farms in Union. Mr. Silvestri said Union officials are in negotiations with driller EQT to mitigate noise and lights through different drilling techniques.

■ Council appointed several residents to township boards, including Amanda Cribbs and Vince Suneja to five-year terms on the Environmental Quality Board, and Rich Sandala to a three-year term on the Cable Television Board. Three residents were appointed with staggering terms to the township Library Board, including Scott Beinhauer to a three-year term; Frank Danyo to a two-year term; and Kathleen McAvoy to a one-year term.

■ Approved a request by St. Benedict the Abbot Catholic Church to place banners on township bridges for an upcoming Lenten Fish Fry from March 3 to April 18.

■ Approved the purchase of a tractor/mower from Walsh Equipment of Prospect, Pa. for $93,000 and the purchase of a skid loader for about $65,000, depending on bids received by Mr. Overcashier.

Janice Crompton: or 412-263-1159.

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