Reynoldsburg feeling salt in their wounds

Reynoldsburg city officials are anything but cool over the costs of road salt for the coming winter.

In an Oct. 1 letter sent to Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, Reynoldsburg Mayor Brad McCloud said he, like several municipalities across the state, is skeptical about the answers coming from the salt industry on why prices have doubled and tripled in many areas since last year.

"Some of us are wondering if these companies are mimicking the oil companies," McCloud said in the letter. "We are concerned about actions that artificially increase prices merely to boost profits."

The letter comes after city officials were notified in September that, despite still being under contract with American Rock Salt Co. for a price of $46 per ton of salt through the end of that month, American Rock Salt Co. would not sell the city any more salt.

The city had planned to purchase an additional 2,000 tons of salt from American Rock Salt Co. to be used on the nearly 112 miles of streets in Reynoldsburg this winter.

Because of the heavy demand of salt and the expected rise in prices, several communities like Reynoldsburg rushed to secure more salt under their existing contracts from the past season. At the Sept. 8 council meeting, Reynoldsburg officials approved the purchase of $92,000 for the 2,000 tons of road salt.

"(American Rock Salt Co.) confirmed on Sept. 8 they would sell us 2,000 tons under the existing contract," McCloud said. "Eight days later on Sept. 16, they said they aren’t going to sell us any more salt."

The notice came "out of the blue" and left city officials shocked, he said.

"They said they had fulfilled their obligation and they were not going to sell any more," he said. "They talked about the demand and about how it had gone up exponentially."

In the meantime, the city received two bid offers from other salt companies, the lowest of which was $149 per ton – more than three times what the city initially planned to pay for the road salt.

At the Oct. 6 Reynoldsburg City Council meeting, council members voted to repeal the previous ordinance that would have purchased about 2,000 tons of salt for $92,000 and then voted to approve the purchase of 1,000 tons of salt at a cost of approximately $150,000.

Council president William L. Hills said in addition to the letter McCloud sent to the governor, as well as U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, Congressman Pat Tiberi, Congresswoman Deborah Pryce, and Ohio Senators David Goodman and Tim Schaffer, the Ohio Municipal League is looking into this issue.

"It’s about time we all realize that regardless, citizens are paying for this," Hills said. "We’ve been gouged with the oil, we’ve had banking problems, and now we have problems with salt."

Despite the reduction in tons of salt the city will order for the upcoming winter, McCloud said Reynoldsburg residents should not see their safety compromised.

The city has approximately 2,000 tons of salt leftover from last year, in addition to the 1,000 tons that are being ordered this year. In an average year, the city uses approximately 1,800 tons of road salt.

The goal of purchasing the salt early at a reduced price under the current contract, city officials say, was to not only fill the city’s two salt storage buildings, but to have enough salt to carry the city over into the winter of 2009 in case there is a shortage like some salt companies are predicting.

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