A local supply company says the city of Akron owes it $350,000 after a purchasing agent reneged on a promise to buy 10,000 tons of road salt.

In a lawsuit filed Jan. 21, Nordonia Landscape Supplies LLC says it bought two dump trucks to move a shipment of Egyptian salt from a dock in Ashtabula to Akron after receiving an email confirmation that the city would buy it. After a month of allegedly not returning phone calls, the city rejected the deal and then said it would pay $5 less per ton than previously arranged.

The company said it could not hold the salt forever or sell at the lower price. The unused dump trucks would fetch $50,000 less, if sold. And in the unseasonably warm December weather that followed, the company sold the salt for $20 to $30 less per ton, taking a hit of $200,000 to $300,000.

According to the complaint filed by Warner Mendenhall, who represents others suing the city on unrelated matters, the dispute hinges on a week of negotiations culminating Oct. 4 when purchasing agent Kim Herron allegedly wrote “we will take it” in an email to Christopher D. Posey, who operates the Northfield supply company.

That afternoon, Posey bought the first of two dump trucks, a 2019 Kenworth T880 for $189,160. The next day, Herron explained to Posey that payment for the road salt required approval by the city council on Oct. 15 and the board of control on Oct. 22.

Posey said he tried to call and email Posey for the rest of October, to no avail. Because the salt had been claimed, he did not dare sell it for fear of the city suing for breach of contract. So he continued to prepare for the shipment, buying the second dump truck, a 2019 Peterbilt 567 for $218,414.88, on Oct. 19.

Herron informed Posey on Oct. 31 that the city no longer wanted the order, but Posey could not get that statement in writing, which would confirm a legally binding agreement. The salt was sold to another customer who did not require delivery, rendering the dump trucks useless.

The city makes a habit of not commenting on pending litigation. “However, I want to be clear that the city has significant salt reserves purchased from other vendors and this lawsuit has no impact on our ability to obtain road salt needed for this winter,” City Spokeswoman Ellen Lander Nischt said.

The lawsuit was filed on Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a weekend snowstorm overwhelmed city workers. At the beginning of the storm, only hills, bridges, some primary routes and highways were salted as city managers decided that the temperatures would be too low to activate the deicing agent. Nischt said that operational decision had “no relationship whatsoever” to this lawsuit, which the city said it had not received as of Tuesday.

The next step in the dispute is for the city to file a legal answer to the civil complaint. Then each side will request records before setting a trial date, negotiating a settlement or asking that the case be dismissed.

Reach Doug Livingston at dlivingston@thebeaconjournal.com or 330-996-3792.