Counties, cities having trouble finding salt


First Posted: 9/2/2014

LIMA — Allen County Engineer Timothy Piper has begun the process to secure the county’s salt inventory for this upcoming winter.

Allen County commissioners approved a resolution allowing Piper to receive bids from salt companies to ensure roads are safe for drivers in case heavy snows blanket streets in the county. The Engineer’s Office will accept sealed bids for either 1,500 tons or 3,000 tons, depending on pricing. The salt will ultimately be stored in the county engineer’s garage throughout the winter.

To date, Allen County is without a bid.

An attempt to receive a bid in July yielded no results for Allen County, so the Ohio Department of Transportation instructed the county, along with other surrounding counties, to go for a second bid. While some counties did receive a second bid, Allen, Auglaize, Putnam, Hancock, Hardin, Logan, Mercer and Van Wert counties, failed to receive a bid. Leaving the remaining counties, Allen County included, to request a third bid. With these multiple bids, salt companies increase their prices to the counties who are desperate for salt tonnage.

The county engineer, townships and villages use on average 5,000 tons of de-icing salt during the average winter months to clear roadways of ice and snow. The county engineer teams up with villages and townships when collecting totals for de-icing salt to send to the Ohio Department of Transportation’s cooperative purchasing program.

The city of Lima chooses to follow a different path for obtaining its salt, according to Howard Elstro, director of the city’s Public Works Department. The city purchases its salt with an independent contract, which this year provided the city with a mere 500 tons, in contrast to its normal 1,500 tons, which was purchased for $56.50 a ton from Morton Salt, based in Toledo. Elstro said the Street Department manages salting the roads, funded by the city. Elstro said the city has never entered into a countywide bid with the county for salt.

This year, counties in Ohio that received bids for salt ranged in price from $102 per ton to $164 per ton. In 2013, Allen County purchased salt for $38 per ton from Morton Salt.

“Those prices are a little but of a concern, obviously,” said Allen County Commissioner Cory Noonan, and thanked Piper and his office for their hard work.

“Two winters ago, we had a very mild winter so a lot of the government entities, ODOT, counties, filled up their salt bins and had plenty of salt left over. Well then last winter we had one of the worst winters we’ve ever had as far as snow plowing and using salt, and we went through all that salt,” Piper said. “Consequently, the salt companies didn’t mine enough salt and there’s a shortage this year and we’re trying to go out to bid and see if we can’t bid for salt for Allen County.”

The Allen County Engineering Department is advertising bids for 3,000 tons of salt with a bid opening date of 11 a.m. Sept. 18 at the Board of County Commissioners. An alternate bid is being requested for 1,500 tons of salt in the event the bid for the 3,000 tons is too high.

Piper said Allen County typically uses 5,000 tons of salt in a winter.

Putnam County Engineer Terrence Recker said Putnam County has remained loyal to Morton Salt for business in the past, but has not yet received a bid from their company. Putnam County is requesting bids for 1,000 tons of salt.

The county engineer and commissioners will come to agreement once bids have be received as to which tonnage is deemed appropriate. The Engineer’s Office said whichever amount of salt is accepted, Allen County will be conserving salt this winter and will be using a salt and sand mix to ensure supplies last.

“We’ll be letting the general public know that they need to slow down,” Piper said.

The mixture will only be used in intersections, curves and bridges.

ODOT’s Steve Faulkner said though the Department is not a state supplier, it will act as a “good neighbor” for areas in need.

“We’re hoping that there’s a salt company out there that has salt and will bid on our contract,” Piper said.

Piper said Allen County’s salt contract is with Morton Salt or Cargill Salt who obtain their salt by mining underneath Lake Erie, playing into the larger cost for shipping expenses.