Twenty-three Stark County communities will pay nearly $20 more per ton for road salt than the price the Ohio Department of Transportation secured for local governments this year.

Twenty-three Stark County communities will pay nearly $20 more per ton for road salt than the price the Ohio Department of Transportation secured for local governments this year.

Had the county bought salt through the state for the townships, villages, cities and Akron-Canton Airport that are enrolled in its program, it could have saved nearly $1.25 million on 60,000 tons of salt.

The price anomaly was unknown when communities had to choose between the state or county purchasing programs in the early summer months. Morton bid $27.50 per ton for ODOT's District 4, which includes Stark. Cargill, the low bidder for Stark's purchasing program, bid $48.32 a ton.

"What can we do?" said Ralph Boger, public works director for Jackson Township. "This year we flipped a coin, and it turned out we went with the county and we lost. It's huge money. We're talking $30,000 or $40,000 really quick."

Massillon, Navarre and the townships of Jackson, Plain and Perry are among those participating in the county's program.


ODOT spokesman Justin Chesnic said there was no way to know what rate would come in because communities have to commit to a program before the price is set.

"You can kind of call it a gamble," he said.

However, the state changed its bid process in 2012 to increase competition and lower the price. In addition to Cargill and Morton, companies such as North American and Detroit were allowed to participate. It also allowed salt companies to bid on a pool of counties, specifically ODOT's 10 districts, in addition to bidding on each of the state's 88 counties, Chesnic said.

Morton's $27.50-per-ton price was good for any participating local government in ODOT's District 4, which includes Stark, Summit, Ashtabula, Portage, Mahoning and Trumbull counties. It was the third best price secured by the state for its purchasing program.

Only Lake County, where a Morton salt mine is located, and neighboring Geauga County had better prices.

Canton Street Superintendent Kevin Monroe said he foresaw the trend last year when the state's price fell nearly $13 to $40.91 a ton, topping the price the city independently secured. Monroe heard from frustrated Canton City Council members about the disparity.

"It was thrown in my face and rubbed in my nose," Monroe said.

A city employee for 30 years, Monroe remembers when salt prices were as low as $18 to $20 a ton in the early '90s.

"It more than doubled since," Monroe said. "Now we're seeing, because of the competition, just a backslide that I never dreamed we would see again. ...I don't know whether we'll see it again next year or not."

Canton, Alliance, North Canton, the North Canton City School District and Sandy Township were the five entities that bought salt through ODOT this year. Canton stands to save nearly $350,000 this year as a result, Monroe said.

Canton is large enough that it has been able to lock in prices at or below the state without partnering with another entity. The county, which buys in bulk for smaller communities without such purchasing power, traditionally has beaten the state's price.

"We would easily beat ODOT's price hands down, but this year in District 4 they got a substantially lower price," said Stark County Engineer Keith Bennett. "We bid a little earlier and our price went down 60 cents a ton, but nothing down to where ODOT was."

The county has been reluctant to join the state's program because of a purchasing requirement it places on participants, Bennett said. The state requires bidders to buy no less than 80 percent of the contracted amount and no more than 120 percent.

"At least with our bid, if we didn't need it, we didn't have to take it and if we needed more we could get it," he said.

Bennett said he is not yet sure what the county will do next year, calling road salt a "volatile" commodity.


Canton bought a smaller, "conservative" among of salt – about 14,000 tons – in recent years, Monroe said, due to financial restraints. City plow trucks haven't dumped as much salt on slick roadways as in the past. The saving has helped the street department buy or repair equipment or offset shortfalls in other departments.

Jackson Township is among the communities that have computerized devices on its plows that limit the amount of salt being spread, Boger said. The department drops about a quarter-ton of salt for every mile. North Canton installed similar devices on its trucks earlier this month. It also is equipping them with GPS units to track what routes it is covering, Administrator Michael Grimes said.