Budgets being strained by weight of blizzard Overtime adds to growing cost

March 17, 1993|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff Writer Staff writers Donna E. Boller, Anne Haddad, Mary Gail Hare, Traci A. Johnson, Amy Miller, Katherine Richards and Bill Talbott contributed to this article.

Carroll County workers continue to plow roads today to clean up from the blizzard that cost the county about $200,000, said Benton Watson, chief of the Bureau of Road Operations.

State, Board of Education and municipal officials also were calculating the cost of snow removal to see if their budgets had been exceeded and looking for money to meet large overtime and contractor bills.

Stretches of four roads were expected to remain closed today, but there are no houses on those parts, Mr. Watson said. Parts of Sixes Bridge Road, Jasontown Road, Jordan Retreat Road and Nusbaum Road were closed, he said.

Yesterday, workers plowed rural back roads, including some in the northern county that had not been touched yet, Mr. Watson said. They also worked to widen roads that had been plowed to allow one lane of traffic, he said.

The county plows 902 miles of roads, he said.

Officials worried late yesterday afternoon about another storm in the forecast after employees -- some of whom had worked four days straight -- had been sent home.

Public Works Director Keith R. Kirschnick said it might be hard to call in workers to salt roads overnight when they had only been home a few hours.

Forecasts were calling for snow or freezing rain today.

The weekend storm forced about 112 roads employees to work more than 50 hours of overtime, which emptied the county's snow-removal budget, Mr. Watson said.

The county had budgeted about $540,000 for snow removal this year. About $30,000 of that was left when the storm hit, he said.

The $200,000 needed to pay overtime for employees and to pay six contractors who drove plow trucks will come from a contingency fund that contains about $400,000, Budget Director Steven D. Powell said.

Mr. Powell and employees from other departments pitched in to help roads employees clear roads. At a peak on Monday, 119 people were working, Mr. Watson said.

Supervisors sent about 60 percent of roads workers home about 9 p.m. Monday, Mr. Watson said. They had been working since 3 a.m. Saturday. The remaining workers were scheduled to be sent home around 7 o'clock last night, he said.

During the storm, workers were able to take breaks to sleep at 12 county fire halls, at Hashawha Environmental Appreciation Center and in bunks at the county maintenance center, he said.

Workers encountered drifts up to 16 feet high on Winters Church Road outside New Windsor, Mr. Watson said. They saw drifts 10 to 12 feet high in many locations, he said.

Specific cost figures for the State Highway Administration's Carroll office were not available, but Liz Kalinowski, director of public affairs for the State Highway Administration, said this storm will put the department over budget for this year. The state had budgeted $14 million for all of Maryland.

"We had called it [the spending] exactly until this storm," she said. "Of course, this is the exception rather than the rule for the last decade. We had a little bit of the money left going into the storm."

Any money the state needs above the budgeted amount will come from operating expenses from this fiscal year and next, Ms. Kalinowski said.

"Some maintenance projects, like road resurfacing or guard rail replacement, may have to be deferred until they can get back on the budget again," she said.

The state maintains 549 "lane-miles" of highway in Carroll County, she said. A four-lane highway one mile long counts as four lane-miles.

School maintenance workers struggled to plow and shovel school drives, emergency exits, bus loops and parking lots by yesterday, but were still concerned about some county roads that buses travel, said Vernon Smith, director of school support services.

The sheer magnitude of the snowfall slowed down efforts to clear school drives and lots, said William Hyde, assistant superintendent of administration for Carroll County Schools. For one thing, Several custodians and maintenance workers couldn't get down their own streets to report for duty Sunday and Monday, he said.

The school system owns a backhoe with a front-end loader, and several large and small tractors, pick-up trucks and larger trucks with plows. There have been some equipment breakdowns, he said.

Mr. Hyde said he would ask county officials whether road crews could help clear school drives and lots after they finish with roads.

The impact on the school budget isn't clear yet, Mr. Hyde said, but would be in the form of overtime and compensatory time for workers who are clearing the snow.

He said he did know know yet what the amount would be.

Town workers also had to cope with the large amounts of snow and equipment that sometimes was not up to the task.

"I figure the snow this year has cost us double what we anticipated," said Taneytown Manager Joseph A. Mangini Jr. "We budgeted about $1,000 and I know it's gone now."

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