This is a little story of a little entity getting by. The governor of our state does not believe in little entities. He believes in mergers, consolidations, bigger is better. He used to work on Wall Street, Lehman Brothers, to be exact. He has nothing to do with this story, but may he be a one term governor, and not because of bankruptcy.
Little entities do understand how big jobs are done. We cooperate with the entities around us. We lend and borrow equipment and expertise. Our shops keep equipment in top notch repair.
My fax machine hummed this summer with schematics for the hydraulics of the back hoe. The road super showed me one part that cost $495. He was incensed. I pointed it probably was tempered metal and had four beautiful welds. I believe the whole job came in at under a thousand in parts, and our old back hoe is back in business. A new back hoe? A hundred grand, or more. We’re still saving up for it.
Bringing us right up to the current topic. Road salt. How do we get the same price as the great big cities around us? We belong to their consortium. How do we meet the minimum? By buying the salt for the village, which has no salt storage facility. It is extremely convenient for them, as our salt barn is smack in the middle of their village.
Road salt remains as contentious a product as in Roman times. There are only two suppliers in Ohio, Morton and Cargill. They both mine under Lake Erie, Morton from the Michigan side and Cargill from the Ohio side, out in eastern Lake County. The roads are crunchy white out there year round, from the salt trucks coming out of the mine.
Do they collude? Of course. Do they get in trouble? Once in a while. In the meantime, taxpayers pay for the salt on their roads, and dearly. The price has more than doubled in my ten years of paying for it. The consortium's supplier has always been Cargill, but with only two players in the game, and roads needing cleared and salted in winter, it just seems obvious that the suppliers, are maximizing profits. Their job, I suppose.
Several years ago fuel surcharges were added. The price of fuel fell, the consortium complained, the charges dropped. The last two winters have been mild. The township has not purchased the amount of salt we committed to. No one has. Cargill whipped out a storage charge of three dollars a ton. That set the township back almost a thousand dollars.
The township nearly met the commitment last year, plus several hundred tons arrears from the previous contract, but fell one hundred twenty tons short. The road super and I looked at each other and shrugged. Surely they wouldn’t nick us too badly for that. We also conspired a bit on our own. The mine is always there, full of salt. We would only commit to the minimum tonnage this year, 620 tons, down from our usual 690.
Well, not exactly, but it’s closed.
Last week Cargill called. Order that hundred and twenty tons now or we would receive an invoice for storage. Five dollars a ton now.
We have never bought salt the first week of September! But six hundred dollars goes a long way in the township.
The salt barn two short weeks ago,
when I also discovered pumpkins in the back fill dump.
Salt trucks are a'coming;
keep that loader moving.