Roads still ice-covered in Baltimore Co. despite revised plan for snow removal

January 21, 1994|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Staff Writer Staff writer Mary Maushard contributed to this article.

When residents griped about Baltimore County's snow removal efforts after the blizzard of March 1993, the Hayden administration came up with a new, improved plan that was supposed to put more road-clearing power on the highways this winter.

But the new plan is drawing complaints too, as residents continue to struggle on ice-slicked collector roadways three days after Monday's snow and ice storm, while the state-maintained highways fed by those local roads are generally clear.

The county plan, approved in late October, combined school and county road crews into one force and added private contractors to clear 11 major county collector roads. The scheme was supposed to increase county road-clearing power by 25 percent over last March.

Yesterday, neither the roads nor the school parking lots were clear, although some school officials give the county good marks for trying. The county was also out of salt.

County officials blame the combination of extraordinarily low temperatures and the exhaustion of their salt supplies by weeks of cold, wet weather and say their plan is working as well as can be expected.

"The plan itself is fine. We're tickled to death with the way it's worked so far," C. Richard Moore, county highways chief, said.

Mr. Moore said comparisons of state and county roadways aren't fair because the state maintains 400 miles of highway in the county, while county crews cover 2,500 miles.

In addition, he said, the state normally dumps more salt on its 400 miles than the county does on all its roads combined.

He said the county's supplier was out of salt for a 10-day period, which prevented the county from restocking before this storm hit. Part of the county plan was an agreement to give the county access to state road salt, but that fell through because the state couldn't spare any.

As a result, county crews were not able to scrape all the snow and ice away before temperatures fell early Tuesday -- creating a layer of immovable ice.

Mr. Moore said the county is now evaluating the need for more salt storage sheds to increase its 10,000-ton capacity.

He said the county had planned on using 20,000 tons of salt all winter but has already used 30,000 tons since Christmas.

While they agree that conditions have been bad, some County Council members and union officials say there are other problems.

"The county definitely could use some more men and equipment," said Edward M. Pedrick Jr., president of the county chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. "We have less manpower now than we did 10 years ago but more roads."

Towson's Councilman Douglas B. Riley, R-4th, said the snow plan needs to be re-assessed.

"The citizens cut us some slack the first and second day," he said, but he now expects more complaints about icy, uncleared streets, even in the heart of the county seat. "When it takes three days [to clean up], that is not acceptable," he said.

Two Democratic councilmen who are running for county executive were also critical.

North county Councilman Charles A. Dutch Ruppersberger said county workers have told him that "they just don't have enough equipment or resources to deal with this."

Pikesville Councilman Melvin G. Mintz, D-2nd, questioned management of county salt supplies. Like others who have driven roads that cross jurisdictional boundaries, he noted that Greenspring Avenue takes a decided turn for the worse when it crosses from Baltimore City into the county.

Other councilmen representing Dundalk, Perry Hall, Catonsville and Fullerton said they have had some complaints but felt the county has done fairly well.

Faith Hermann, executive director of facilities for county schools, said road crews have tried to live up to the promise of clearing school parking lots.

But the layers of salt, slag and sand applied to school lots and walks have not cracked the ice that formed Monday night, she said.

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