If Steve Miller would have known he’d be famous like the other Steve Miller, he would have had 80 tons of salt stolen a long time ago.
Between Feb. 12 and Feb. 16, someone removed 80 tons of salt from his company’s backup storage shed in the 1500 block of North Aurora Avenue.
“I never would have known about it if I wasn’t going out to pick up a pizza for dinner,” Miller said. “It was going to snow the next day so I thought I’d stop and pick up a ton or two. It was back to the wall of the storage facility.”
Miller reported the rock salt theft to Naperville Police and went about his day. Then his phone started ringing.
“I’m doing all these interviews,” he said. “WGN was out here. I don’t know why this is so interesting.”
Miller is a font of salt knowledge. He founded his self-named, snow removal company, Steve Miller Inc., in 1979.
In the spring and summer his trucks deliver a little mulch, some decorative stone, but his commercial business is primarily snow removal.
“We’re a large commercial snow removal company,” he said. “In the summer we’re bidding on new business. Plows need to be welded. We install salt boxes on the trucks. We also distribute plow equipment.”
He’s also something of a visionary when it comes to predicting winter road salt needs.
“Everyone wants a fixed number on a variable,” Miller said. “In Chicago, if you think you can guess the weather you’re probably wrong. We always plan for the worst.”
Miller also dispelled some myths about road salt; for example, sodium chloride doesn’t in work in temperatures under 20 degrees. When salt is dumped on the tollway or street, it usually goes bouncing into the grass.
“If that were the case, the tollway would be an ice rink,” he said. “We looked at the tollway system. We’re one of the few companies that use liquid magnesium chloride so when the temperatures get cold it works in colder temperatures. The liquid helps it stay on the pavement.”
Miller is guessing at the tonnage of stolen salt, which represents 3-5 percent of his company’s total inventory.
“A ton of salt only fills a bathtub so for us its a couple of outings,” he said.
While municipalities -- including Naperville -- are struggling to stretch out their salt supplies, the shortage hasn’t affected Steve Miller Inc.
“We’ve been around since 1979, this isn’t our first rodeo,” Miller said. “In our case we called our supplier. He basically said they couldn’t fulfill our allocation because they were diverting supplies to municipalities.”
Miller says the cops have ruled out an inside job on the salt theft. Whoever stole it, probably used a loader.
“I can tell you there may be closure on it eventually but we’re not there yet,” he said. “Call me in a few weeks.”
There’s still some snow left in the winter of 2014 and predicts some spring storms. As for the salt, Miller has plenty.
“Our company had the foresight to buy more commodity at the beginning of the season,” he said. “We’re actually in good shape.”
Enough to last through spring and what may be a white Easter.