By Sue Botos
Rocky River will be one of 850 public entities in Ohio benefiting from a settlement between Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office and rock salt producers accused of conspiring to drive up prices.
At the Oct. 5 City Council committee of the whole session, Mayor Pam Bobst said that the city will receive $16,142 of an $11.5 million agreement between the state and road salt manufacturers Morton and Cargill, Inc. Cuyahoga County was awarded a total of $140,150.40.
“We were asked to send them (the state) our orders from 2008 through 2011,” stated Bobst. The statistics showed a steady rise in costs beginning with the 2008-2009 season, when the city purchased 4,000 tons at a price of $39.57 each for a total of $159,000. The following year, the number rose to $43.53 per ton, (totaling $173,000) and in 2010-2011, the city paid a total of $198,000 for 4,400 tons.
“We were thrilled about the $16,000. The way we use salt, it’s an expensive part of our budget,” said Bobst.
The city makes its salt purchases through the ODOT (Ohio Department of Transportation) Cooperative Purchasing agreement through a vendor approved by the state.
DeWine’s office announced the settlement with Morton and Cargill in June, although the two salt producers “expressively denied” having engaged in any illegal activity. Morton paid out $3.8 million, and Cargill $7.7 million solely, according to their representatives, to resolve the dispute.
In March of 2012, DeWine’s office filed an anti-trust lawsuit charging that the salt suppliers divided up the Ohio market, agreeing not to compete with each other and inflating prices for almost 10 years. The result was ODOT and counties throughout the state paying above market rates for road salt.
The lawsuit further claimed that Cargill and Morton predetermined which company would win a particular bid, evenly divvying up customers, especially in the northern portion of the state with its brutal winters.
Other West Shore cities receiving a portion of the settlement include Bay Village ($10,293.71), Fairview Park ($9,825.63), North Olmsted ($23,055.71) and Westlake ($22,247.46).