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Contractors upset over long wait times and pricey snowmelt in New Haven

There used to be two places in the state where contractors could get road salt, the New London pier, and the New Haven pier. Now there is only one.

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Update 8:15 p.m.

Gateway Terminal said later Monday night there is another 55,000 tons of salt being unloaded later this week and a second vessel is expected before mid-March. 

Wait times are now about 2 to 2 1/2 hours for contractors. Wait times for the DOT is limited, say officials at Gateway.

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Ahead of Tuesday's snowstorm, contractors from across the state were waiting for hours to get road salt Monday from the only distribution spot in Connecticut. But is it a supply and demand issue? Or is it something more complex? 

There used to be two places in the state where contractors could get road salt, the New London pier, and the New Haven pier. But now it’s only New Haven and some are saying that’s creating a dangerous and pricey bottleneck.

Gateway Terminal President James Dillman wants to make it clear that despite contractors waiting in multi-hour-long lines, there is no salt shortage. Peter Nito of All-State Landscape said, "We sat in line from 7 AM this morning to 5 PM now to get one load of salt." But Dillman said, "It’s a lot like a rush at a restaurant. Everybody runs in tries to get in line wants to get everything that they can...We're turning trucks around in about two to two and a half hours which is going quite well."

Gateway’s former competitor in the salt business, DRIVN Enterprises, says it’s a distribution problem. "It’s like you going to the grocery store during COVID and everybody in the state is going to that one grocery store. How is that working?" remarked Michelle Farrelly, whose husband owns DRIVN.

DRIVN used to sell salt from the New London State Pier. But when the pier was redeveloped for the sole purpose of offshore wind, other tenants like DRIVN were left out in the cold. "We were serving municipalities we were serving colleges and universities, hospitals. It wasn’t just private contractors," said Jordan Farrelly, DRIVN's office manager.

The CT Port Authority awarded Gateway the bid to operate the New London pier. DRIVN says they were soon told to liquidate all their salt. "Once Gateway took over as our landlord, we were not allowed to bring in ships," said DRIVN.

But the Port Authority told FOX61 DRIVN was granted multiple extensions to sell their salt. John Henshaw said, "At that time, it was made clear that they were going to have to leave the terminal at some point in 2020. There were a couple of extensions made. We didn’t put them out of business. They could have certainly found another place to store their salt at any time in between when they knew they had to leave and now. They knew they had that opportunity but elected not to do that," said John Krenshaw, the Executive Director of the CT Port Authority.

DRIVN tried find other places to sell their salt. They found a secure stockpile facility in Ledyard but then were told by the town it was too close to a reservoir. "My father has been searching for the last year and a half for a place to sell salt out of and every time he did that it doesn’t work out," said Jordan.

So now the Gateway Terminal in New Haven is the only place to get it. State Sen. Paul Formica who represents New London said, "It creates a difficulty for people who have to travel distance between the transportation costs are what is going to drive the price up."

Some say it’s a monopoly that’s leading to price gouging. Contractor John Vassel of J.V. III Construction said, "It cost me approximately $10,000 just to get loaded with a load of salt."

Gateway was planning to implement a price increase on February 15th but decided to suspend it at the last minute. State Senator Paul Formica and Rep. Anthony Nolan told FOX61 they want the attorney general to look into it. "Just remember to keep your receipts if we have to involve the attorney general," said Rep. Nolan. "I think it absolutely should be something the attorney general looks at," said Sen. Formica.

Gateway says that they are able to process 650 trucks a day through their facility but 500 of those are for the DOT and municipalities leaving private contractors last in line.

RELATED: Local contractors say New London pier dispute is limiting road salt supply across Connecticut

A statement from Governor Ned Lamont's office was released Monday night: 

“In discussion with officials from the Connecticut Department of Transportation, the state has been informed by all three salt suppliers in Connecticut that they have adequate supply to meet the state’s needs, and that state plow trucks will be properly equipped to handle this week’s winter weather events and those to come. We have been made aware of contractors who had previously relied on the supply in New London, now needing to make different arrangements to fulfill their needs. This is not new, as contractors from all over Connecticut and even from other states have utilized the supply in New Haven for their salt needs for years.”

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