Price of road salt rises sharply

SANDUSKY Show some respect for that salt shaker on your dinner table. That's a valuable substance.
Tom Jackson
May 24, 2010



Show some respect for that salt shaker on your dinner table. That's a valuable substance.

The cost of road salt will rise sharply this winter for local governments.

When road salt bids were opened Thursday by the Erie County Commissioners, two of the companies that had shown interest declined to bid.

The only bidder, Morton Salt of Chicago, Ill., offered salt at $69 a ton when it's picked up from a stockpile in Sandusky.

Last year, the cost was $37 per ton, said Ann Summers, who handles bids for the county's finance office.

The estimate is that local governments will use 11,400 tons, so that's a cost of $786,600, Erie County Engineer Jack Farschman said.

To try to get savings by buying in bulk, the Erie County engineer's office combined its own purchase of salt (3,200 tons) with Sandusky (2,500 tons), Perkins Township (1,600 tons) and Huron (1,000 tons).

The remainder of the 11,400 tons is rounded out with smaller purchases from Berlin Township, Groton Township, Huron Township, Margaretta Township, Milan Township, Oxford Township, Berlin Heights, Castalia, Milan, the Erie County Facilities Department and Erie County's Department of Environmental Services.

Farschman said the money for his office's salt purchase comes from gas tax money.

The cost of the salt means there will be less money for road work, he said.

And the price hike in salt comes when gas tax revenues are declining, because people are driving less, Farschman said.

"People are using less gallons now. The fuel costs are so high," Farschman said. "They are joining up and riding together and riding bicycles and motor scooters and golf carts."

Erie County's pain also is being felt by other local governments in Ohio.

Ottawa County officials told the Register in July they expect to pay about double what they paid last winter. Huron County officials said they paid $40 a ton last winter and will pay at least $49 a ton next winter.

"I don't know how some of these little communities are going to be able to adjust for that kind of a pricing increase," said Huron County assistant engineer Carl Essex. "Nobody has an extra $100,000 to $200,000 laying around."

Morton Salt spokesman Joseph Wojtonik could not be reached for comment Thursday. He told the Register in July that severe weather last winter created shortages of salt, making it more valuable.

"To me, it's price gouging," Farschman said.