MINNETONKA, Minn. - The Minnetonka football team is built on hard work. But its practice field was partly built on salt.
The team's two annual water softener salt sales bring in nearly $30,000 dollars each year that help pay down the debt on Veterans Field.
What could be wrong with that?
"It hurts our business," says Michelle LeGault, manager of Peterson Salt and Water Treatment Company in Hopkins, which sells and home delivers water softener salt.
LeGault says the growing popularity of water softener salt fundraisers is pinching the bottom line of dealers who sell salt for a living. "They'll sell truckloads of salt, and that could be a week's worth of profit for us."
Salt dealers have begun to organize to make sure their voices are heard. Paul Davis, a St. Peter Culligan dealer, recently wrote a letter to State Representative Terry Morrow (DFL-St. Peter) asking for help. "I believe we are entitled to fair competition, not free high school labor," he wrote.
Contacted by KARE 11, Morrow said he's advising salt dealers to talk to their local school districts to try reach a solution. Morrow strikes a sympathetic tone toward salt dealers, but believes legislation to address the issue could be complicated.
For instance, would legislation also include Christmas wreaths and fruit sales? "Where would it stop?" asks Morrow. "Would it stop with water softener salt, would it take in other products, would it only be school fundraisers, would it be private fundraisers as well?"
Many schools now deal directly with salt companies which offer wholesale prices similar to those paid by dealers. When free student labor is factored in, LeGault says dealers can't compete.
"We feel like, well, we contribute to the school because our tax dollars fund them, so then we feel kind of hurt, like how can they steal our business when we are supporting them," she says.
Salt dealers also point to the 40 pound salt bags students carry down basement stairs as a source of potential injury and liability.
"It's definitely different than delivering a box of cookies," says LeGault. "We have guys who get hurt and they do this for a living."
Minnetonka head football coach Dave Nelson says the weight of the bags have never been an issue for his players. "They're 40 pound bags and our kids are lifting five times that in the weight room, so I think it's good for them, it's like baling hay," he says.
A Google search shows many other high school teams around the state are using salt fundraisers. Nelson says the sales have not only raised thousands of dollars for his program, but help build camaraderie and team spirit. "It's a big part of what we do," he says.
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