The 82-Hour Work Week

January 24, 1994

Keeping roads passable is a basic public service, and the Carroll County and state road crews did a remarkable job of fulfilling that responsibility last week. Considering the horrendous weather conditions with which they had to cope, the crews were able to clear the worst of the snow and ice from virtually all of the county's major thoroughfares.

But clear roads come at a cost, in human and monetary terms. County road crews put in an extraordinary amount of time to plow the 910 miles of county roads for which they are responsible. They worked 36 hours straight from 5 a.m. Monday through Tuesday afternoon. They resumed plowing and salting Wednesday at 5 a.m. and continued for another 16 hours. On Thursday, they worked a mere eight hours and on Friday put in a 12-hour shift. The week finished off with a 10-hour shift on Saturday. All told, the road crews worked an 82-hour week in order to clear the roads for the rest of us.

All the overtime pay has busted the county's snow removal budget, but there should not be any severe repercussions on other public services. Even though the county has spent at least $250,000 more than its budgeted $500,000 for snow removal, reserves have been set aside. In fact, county budget officials say their built-in cushion could absorb snow removal costs totalling twice the budgeted amount.

Not all of the snow removal budget goes toward salaries. The county has bought or is obligated to buy $460,000 worth of salt this year. Under optimum circumstances, not all this salt will be used this year and some can be stored for next winter.

Carroll's preparation for the adverse weather and the dedication of its crews to clear the roads seemed in stark contrast to neighboring counties in Pennsylvania. Most major roads there are still covered with hard-packed ice; some remained impassable into the weekend. Pennsylvanians may have lower taxes than Maryland residents, but they have been paying the price this month. Large numbers of them have been unable to get to work because of unplowed and unsalted roads.

The contrast between Carroll County and Adams and York counties in Pennsylvania is a good illustration of the adage: "You get what you pay for."

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