Salt shortage hurting local cities

CLEVELAND -- Snow and cold? Plenty of that to go around. But salt is in short supply in parts of Northeast Ohio.

In Westlake, the sight of a near-empty salt bin is a nightmare for Public Service Director Paul Quinn.

"It makes me terrified. We have a lot of great residents in town, but there's only so much that anyone's ready to put up with," said Quinn.

Westlake typically uses 6,000 tons a year, and this year, with lots of snow events and extra-cold temperatures, the city is looking to use a record amount, maybe more than 8,000 tons.

"Our citizens were complaining, and I don't blame them," said Lakewood Mayor Mike Summers.

Like Westlake, Lakewood is in a buying group managed by ODOT and supplied this year by the lowest bidder: Morton Salt out of Chicago, instead of local provider Cargill like in years past.

"I think right now we'd rather pay the extra $10 a ton to get better service," said Summers. He said performance issues on Morton Salt's part will be part of the conversation when choosing a supplier next year.

Read more | Statement from Morton Salt

Lakewood says Morton Salt has faced logistics and delivery issues, including a bottleneck with trucking in Fairport Harbor, holding up expected deliveries.

Channel 3 went to Morton Salt facilities in Fairport Harbor where trucks were scrambling, but our cameras were not welcome.

One trucker did confirm to Channel 3 that the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has relaxed driving rules for truckers delivering salt.

"We don't have a maximum number of hours we can drive between now and Friday," driver Joe Fulton told Channel 3 as he drove his semi-truck of salt to Geauga County.

Lakewood has even taken legal measures to make sure a delivery happens. An order for a 1,000 tons placed in mid-December is still unfilled.

Summers was told that 350 tons would be delivered Tuesday.

That amounts to 17 truckloads of salt but will last less than two nights in the city.

"We're dumping them, we're reloading our salt trucks and off we go," he said.

Another 650 tons is expected by Monday.

Westlake has been promised 300 tons to arrive by the weekend. The city hopes the promise holds true and the weather calms down.

"A lot of municipalities are going to be hurting around here if February is anything like January has been," said Quinn.

There is talk at the state level of an emergency contract with a different supplier, such as Cargill, if Morton cannot deliver on its current contacts.

A Cargill spokesperson told WKYC 98 percent of its Lake Erie salt is sold to cities and over governments, and nearly all its supply is already spoken for.

Some local cities and their salt supply:

Avon Lake -- left voicemail.

Bay Village -- left voicemail.

Beachwood -- Salt supply is good. In a consortium of eight cities that contract with Cargill. It's more expensive, but delivery time is quicker and fulfillment is good. Other cities in the consortium are Brecksville, Broadview Heights, Brooklyn, Brooklyn Heights, Independence, North Royalton, Seven Hills and Valley View.

Beachwood -- Service director says most cities are on an ODOT contract with Morton, hence the Lakewood shortage. Other cities he said are part of that group are University Heights, Warrensville and Pepper Pike. He says the ODOT Morton contract is cheaper.

Bedford -- low supply.

Bedford Heights -- left message.

Berea -- left message.

Brecksville -- Supply is good. They confirm the consortium information from Beachwood and says the consortium gets 24-hour delivery. Also mentioned it's "a real shame about the ODOT Morton crisis." He said the topography of Brecksville, a lot of hills, access to ski resorts, makes it imperative that they have reliable salt supplies.

Brook Park -- Two hundred tons in stock, 900 tons on order. Sumitted a purchase request for another 500 tons yesterday. Contract is 4,000 tons for season and can go 20 percent over or under. They will be 2,200 into the contract once existing orders are fulfilled. Service director says they do not use brine because of the expense.

Brunswick -- left voicemail.

Chagrin Falls -- They still have 25 percent to 35 percent of capacity left -- 300 to 400 tons on hand -- and placed and order last week, still waiting on delivery. They're OK for now, but too many more storms will be problematic. They're seeing delays like most other cities. They are part of the ODOT contract. A director in Street Department said ODOT is looking into a relief contract for salt from another company now. The issue then would be that the cities are obligated to buy a certain amount of salt from the contract supplier (Morton). If they bought salt from another company for relief, ODOT needs to make sure the cities wouldn't still have to meet the fulfillment contract obligations, which would be costly to the cities.

Cleveland Heights -- left voicemail.

Cuyahoga Heights -- They have 250 tons out of 400, which is low for this time of year. They used almost 800 tons for the year. Twenty tons have been delivered each of the last two days. They were expecting orders of 100 and 200. ODOT told Cuyahoga Heights that if their orders aren't fulfilled by the eighth day, that they can call Cargill and get salt from them and it will count toward their contracted purchase obligation, per a clause in the contract. ODOT told Cuyahoga Heights that it's an issue with the trucking company.

East Cleveland -- left voicemail.

Eastlake -- They have 300 tons and are waiting on another 300. This past weekend they used 600 tons.

Euclid -- left voicemail.

Fairview Park -- left voicemail.

Garfield Hts. -- They are dangerously low -- a little under 150 tons. They used 59 just to prep the roads Tuesday morning. They ordered 2,000 tons at the beginning of January, and 1,300 tons still haven't been delivered. Tuesday, they got 23 tons of 200 tons they were expecting delivered. They have 3,500 tons contracted for the year.

Highland Heights -- left message.

ODOT -- left message.


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