Unused salt pile launches 8 week investigation

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - An eight week investigation into an unused pile of road salt is complete.

The City of Cincinnati found that the public works department should not have paid $316,000 for more salt on December 6, while roughly $400,000 worth of salt sat unused for about a year off of Beekman Street.

"It's a poor decision of the city's public services department that they would allow salt to remain at the Beekman Street address for nine months, they really forgot all about it," says Winburn.

But on December 6, the public works department spent $316,000 on 4,900 tons of new salt.

"They actually invested over $314,000 of tax-payers money that they did not have to use at that time," explains Winburn.

In a memo FOX19 obtained, interim city manager Scott Stiles says the December 6 purchase "did not need to be spent yet" and "a better practice would have been for public services to have used the salt at the Beekman temporary location before ordering additional salt".

"Really, Saltgate had the potential of being a government waste project, it had the potential. If the whistle blowers did not come to us, guess what? That salt would still be out at a place we call Saltgate," says Winburn.

Under an agreement with their salt provider, the city pays just more than $60 per ton for road salt. That means the 6,500 tons sitting at the Beekman location was worth roughly $400,000.

Luckily for the city, it's still usable and the majority of the salt has been moved.

Winburn says he just hopes this same error doesn't happen again.

"There is a lack of public trust with the city's department of public service," Winburn.

Winburn says they're now getting ready to conduct a formal investigation and review of the public works department.

FOX19 did reach out to the public works department repeatedly for comment, but they haven't returned our calls.

Interim city manager Scott Stiles says they will use the remainder of the salt at the Beekman pile before ordering more salt.

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