In a winter of polar vortexes, record-setting snowfall and ever-dwindling supplies, road salt has proven to be worth its weight in gold.
If that were true, one Naperville businessman would be out billions of dollars following the theft of as much as 80 tons of salt from one of his storage bins.
Steve Miller’s loss is, of course, nowhere near as catastrophic as all that. It’s more in the range of $10,000. And because of careful planning on his part, Miller said the theft won’t adversely impact his ability to continue doing his job this season as a snow removal professional.
Naperville police are investigating the theft of the salt, which apparently occurred sometime between noon Feb. 12 and 4:30 p.m. Sunday from a Steve Miller Inc. “temporary enclosure” on the city’s northwest side.
A written police report stated 80 tons of salt valued at $9,600 was stolen. Police Sgt. Bill Davis said the thieves, in all likelihood, needed “a dump truck or a Bobcat” in order to make off with so much salt.
Miller’s company is headquartered in the unincorporated Wheatland Industrial Park near Naperville’s far southwest side. He has been in the snow and ice removal business for more than 30 years.
Miller on Wednesday said he’s not certain exactly how much salt was stolen, and that 80 tons is “our best guess-timate. I’m saying, a substantial quantity.”
Purchasing invoices will have to be reviewed before a more precise determination can be made, Miller said.
Miller’s company serves commercial-industrial clients that include Tellabs Inc. in Naperville and MetLife in Aurora. He declined to say how many people he employs, although he did say it was “a large staff.”
Miller said he was the one who discovered the salt missing.
“I’m really the only one who goes in and out of it,” he said of the bin in question.
“It was noted a fairly large quantity of salt had been removed from the temporary enclosure,” Miller said.
He added it was the first theft of its kind at that location in company history.
“But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in 30 years in business, it’s (to) always plan ahead for the winter,” Miller said. “A lot of mid-sized and small-sized (snow removal) contractors tend to lower their budgets” when it comes to salt purchasing, but he and his company do not, he said.
“This was actually a very small amount of salt,” Miller said. “We really kind of used it as our emergency (supply). It’s not part of our main stockpile, so we still have plenty of salt on hand. We just don’t have the reserve I’d like to have now.”
Miller added he wouldn’t be surprised if similar salt capers have been unfolding elsewhere in the Chicago area.
“I don’t think I’m an isolated case,” he said.
Anyone with information about the theft is asked to call Naperville police at 630-420-6666.