By Sue Botos
Back in 1914 when the Morton Salt Co. introduced its iconic “When it rains, it pours” slogan, the saying illustrated the fact that Morton salt could flow freely, even in damp weather, which was unusual at the time.
But for cities relying on the company to provide roadway salt, the flow this winter has become as frozen as the weather.
“We have salt, but it has been a strain,” said Rocky River safety-service Director Mary Kay Costello after last week’s City Council session. She continued that after receiving 800 tons on Jan. 6, fewer than 200 tons remain at the city service facility after crews have been working almost around the clock this month.
Costello’s comment, “We’re waiting anxiously for our next delivery,” was echoed throughout Westshore communities under contract with Morton. Lakewood officials have stated that Morton has failed to deliver the 1,000 tons back-ordered by the city. Lakewood Mayor Michael Summers said the city is noted for its pedestrian-friendly atmosphere, and relies on salt to keep sidewalks, as well as roads, clear. Lakewood’s usual storage capacity is 1,500 tons, but the supply has shrunk to about 250 tons.
“We are doing everything we can to ensure the safety of our residents,” Summers said. “Getting salt to clear our streets is a big part of that. Unfortunately, we have had promises repeatedly broken by Morton.”
Westlake service Director Paul Quinn agreed, stating that six consecutive ice melter orders have been late.
“The one we have due tomorrow will also be late,” he told West Life on Jan. 29. When he asked for an explanation, representatives of Morton said there was an issue with the trucking company used to transport the salt.
Quinn said alternatives have been considered, but are not a likely solution. “You run into a problem when you start looking for other suppliers. They have contracts to fulfill, and anyone else is at the bottom of the list,” he stated. Letters to Morton threatening to seek damage payment from the company “seem to help a little,” according to Quinn, but the deliveries have still been late.
In Fairview Park, service Director Rob Berner told West Life that alternative contractors have been discussed, but most likely will not be sought. He said the city has about 100 tons of melter in storage, or “enough for about one snowstorm.” Berner said of the last 500 tons ordered, 131 tons have been delivered.
Scott Thomas, service director for Bay Village, reported last week that his city’s store of salt was down to about 250 tons. “We’re trying to conserve. We’ve told people we’re not salting the side streets. Communities must do what they can to conserve salt,” he said.
Most area communities are under contract with Morton because the company won the bid to provide salt through the state, creating a demand for its resources. Officials for Morton were not available for comment.
North Olmsted, on the other hand, sought out independent contractor Cargill. According to Dave Demaline, city streets foreman, there have been no outstanding problems. “We had 100 tons delivered today, and we’ll have 100 more delivered (later in the week),” he stated last week. “We’re not experiencing any unusual depletion, considering the weather,” he added.
Quinn and Thomas said that local communities have been in discussion with the Ohio Department of Transportation about setting up a possible emergency contract. However, they stressed that this is in the talking stage only, and no action could be expected before next year. “If February is tough, we’ll be in big trouble,” Quinn predicted.