Preparing for winter: Some cities, counties getting sticker shock when it comes to road salt cost

NEW PHILADELPHIA, Ohio -- While the calendar still says it is summertime, cities and counties across Ohio are preparing for winter.

This is when many of the communities across the state replenish their supply of road salt in advance of winter storms and what they are finding are dramatically higher prices for their salt.

Many Ohio counties bid on their road salt through the Ohio Department of Transportation.
Among them is Tuscarawas County, where last year's bid was $39.18 per ton.

This year's bid is more than $84 per ton, more than twice what the salt cost last year.
"We projected for something in the 60-dollar range but, yeah, this is half again, more than we thought it would be during the winter," said Assistant Tuscarawas County Engineer Wayne Crilow.

The same price is what communities in Tuscarawas County will pay for their salt, including New Philadelphia and Dover.

Once in the state's bidding program, the participating cities and counties are locked into that price and are required to buy at least 90-percent of what they ordered through their bid.

For New Philadelphia and Tuscarawas County the bids were for 2,000 tons each.

"That means street next door -- your street in front-- unfortunately won't get paved because we have to put the extra money into salt," said Ron McAbier, New Philadelphia's service director.

ODOT says Tuscarawas County's increase was one of the most dramatic in the state.

No supplier bid on Tuscarawas or Lorain County in the first round of bidding.

After their bid was put up a second time the only company to enter a bid for Tuscarawas County was Compass Minerals America of Kansas.

By comparison Portage, Summit, and Stark counties, all in ODOT District 4, are able to get their salt through the state bidding process at less than $60 a ton through Morton Salt Company.

Cuyahoga County will pay $64.76 per ton through Cargill.

The highest bid price in the state is Monroe County which will have to pay more than $99 a ton for its salt, also through Compass.

"We allowed for an increase. We thought the product, the salt, would go up a little bit but we never thought it would more than double. There's no way we thought it would more than double," said McAbier.

ODOT Deputy Director of Communications Erica Hawkins told FOX 8 News that Tuscarawas County's increase is one of the most dramatic in the state, but there is no easy explanation.
Hawkins said even ODOT is paying 66% more this year for its salt.

She explained that typically ODOT has seen salt prices increase 50% or more in a year after a harsh winter because many communities deplete their salt supply and have to replenish it, so the increases could be a result of supply and demand.

The city of New Philadelphia said it will be ready to tackle what comes this winter, but it may have to come at the expense of other projects.

"We may try to do some different things when salting -- change the way a route is done, try to help us on the salt consumption during a snow event, but other than that you have to do it. People need to be safe, so you have to do what you have to do," said McAbier.