Gallia seeks salt settlement refund

In this photo taken last October, Gallia County ODOT garage crew members Mike Waugh and Pam Sanders fill a salt barn with treated road salt in preparation for winter. The salt brine is being dumped onto a conveyor belt, where it is then deposited into a salt storage facility at the garage on Jackson Pike.

GALLIPOLIS — Due to a lawsuit settlement announced June 3 by the Ohio Attorney General of around $11.5 million with Morton Salt Inc. and Cargill Inc., Gallia County may be receiving money from past rock salt purchases.

Gallia County Engineer Brett Boothe was informed of a controversy involving Morton Salt and Cargill in 2012. Attorney General Mike DeWine filed an antitrust lawsuit against the companies because of suspicion that the pair were working together to charge above-market prices to the Ohio Department of Transportation and other government organizations around Ohio over the price of rock salt. Rock salt is commonly used to lower the freezing point of water on icy roads.

According to information gathered from the Gallia County Engineer’s Office, the lawsuit alleged that Morton Salt and Cargill divided the salt market and concurred to not compete with one another in an attempt to raise prices up until 2010.

Boothe said the price of rock salt per ton purchased from Morton Salt in 2008 was around $105.35. In 2009, the engineer’s office purchased salt from North America Salt Co. at roughly $62.76 per ton. In 2010, they purchased again from the same company at nearly $64.96 per ton. The office purchased salt from Morton Salt in 2011 at $61.23.

Salt bought by Gallia County in 2012 from North America Salt was $52.68. Gallia County purchased salt from Cargill Inc. for $56.66.

Boothe noted that oftentimes he will bid with ODOT because bulk purchases for salt come at better prices that way.

“We need competition and we need better pricing instead of lining pockets,” Boothe said.

The county engineer said he is always looking for the most efficient route possible to save taxpayers money while paving and maintaining as many roads he can throughout the Gallia area.

“I am pleased that Morton and Cargill have agreed to resolve this lawsuit and will be returning money to local agencies and governments who buy rock salt to help keep Ohio’s Roads clear during the winter months,” DeWine said in a press release. “Ohio taxpayers and consumers can have confidence that my office will investigate and take action to ensure a competitive marketplace and safeguard taxpayer dollars.”

Boothe said he was preparing reports and information to hand over to state offices seeking compensation from the settlement covering 2008 to 2010. Those are the years allowed by the settlement for government organizations to seek recompense.

Dean Wright can be reached at (740) 446-2342, Ext. 2103.