The Highland County Engineer’s Office and village of Greenfield are among nearly 850 Ohio public entities that will receive checks as part of an $11.5 million settlement to resolve an antitrust lawsuit against Cargill Inc. and Morton Salt Inc. over past rock salt prices.
The engineer’s office will receive $7,980 and Greenfield will receive $918.
The settlement with Cargill and Morton Salt resolved a 2012 lawsuit accusing the companies of dividing up the Ohio rock salt market and agreeing not to compete with each other for public bids during a period ending in 2010.
Although Morton and Cargill admitted no wrongdoing, they agreed to pay $11.5 million to resolve the state’s case, just before a jury trial was set to begin, Attorney General Mike DeWine said.
Of the total settlement, about $6.8 million was available to local governments. Additional payments were allotted to the state’s largest single rock salt purchaser — the Ohio Department of Transportation ($1.7 million), the Ohio Turnpike Commission ($174,435), and as required by law, the state’s antitrust fund.
Highland County Engineer Dean Otworth said his department’s settlement will be deposited into the appropriate fund and will eventually be used purchase things like salt and fuel.
He said that in a normal year the engineer’s office uses 1,800 to 2,400 tons of salt, although it has used as many as 3,200 tons and as little as 500 to 600 tons.
“We’ve had a couple years in my years as engineer where we only had one to two call-outs,” Otworth said.
He said the engineer’s office has 1,500 to 1,700 tons of salt in storage right now, with an agreement to purchase 2,000 tons next year.
Greenfield City Manager Ron Coffey said the village’s $918 settlement, “Won’t go that far, but we certainly appreciate getting some money back.”
The village paid $81.21 per ton during its last purchase of about 200 tons of salt.
“That sounds like a lot, but to cover pretty much one square mile we have to be judicious how we use it,” Coffey said.
He said Greenfield sometimes mixes grit with its salt, but most of the time uses just salt and snow plows to clear winter roads.
The Attorney General’s Office said that over the summer it encouraged Ohio public entities to submit a claim for a share of the settlement based on the total amount of rock salt they purchased from Cargill and/or Morton between 2008 and 2010, the time frame for which the state could seek recovery in the case.
The office received eligible claims from 848 Ohio public entities, each of which is receiving a check. Distribution amounts were calculated at a percentage of an entity’s total eligible rock salt purchase. To ensure that no entity received a check for just a few dollars, entities were guaranteed at least a minimum distribution of $500, except for one entity whose total purchase was just $319, the Attorney General’s Office said.
“When I announced this settlement in June, I indicated my intention to return a significant portion of the money to local agencies and governments that buy rock salt,” DeWine said. “We know these agencies stretch public funds and taxpayer dollars as far as possible, and we hope this money will help them make roads safer for the citizens who depend on them.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.