The winter that turned salt into gold may turn summer into road-patch time

February 20, 1994|By Amy L. Miller and Darren Allen | Amy L. Miller and Darren Allen,Sun Staff Writers

Carroll County's expensive and exhausting battle with winter threatens to drag on into summer.

With a month left until spring, snow-removal budgets are overspent, salt supplies are limited and road crews might be patching potholes until the middle of summer, county and municipal officials said.

"Our roads are eaten pretty bad in a lot of places," said Jay R. Nave, administrative assistant for the Carroll County Bureau of Roads Operations. "This winter is a lot more severe than what we've had the last seven to 10 years.

"The frost has gone in [the roads] a lot deeper and has been here much longer."

Repair crews have caught up with the current bumps and dips but will have to wait until spring to see how much damage the repetitive freeze and thaw cycles have caused to county roads.

"There's going to be a lot of hand work this spring," said Westminster streets supervisor Donald A. Gross. "Pretty near every street has damage with the freezing and thawing."

Mr. Gross, a city employee for 21 years, said he hasn't seen this much street damage since 1977.

"My men are really glad to get a break this week," he said, referring to the warmer weather.

"We had been working round the clock. Right now, we're working on Main Street, clearing storm drains, and are in the process of maintaining our equipment."

Repair costs unknown

County officials said they are nowhere near formulating an estimate for how much road repair will cost.

"Neither Keith [Kirschnick, public works director], nor Jay [Nave], nor Benton [Watson, administrator of the county roads bureau] has any way to put his arms around it," said Gary Horst, capital budget supervisor.

Mr. Horst said public works employees told him that they didn't ** expect to have an estimate ready by March 10, when the department presents its roads budget requests to the county commissioners.

"We've all been observing some rocking and rolling roads and shoulders thrust up from freezing," he said. "We've not going to be able to tell until we know that it's over, when we know that all the freezings and breakages that are going to occur have occurred."

County expenditures

"For snow removal, we're probably at this time 210 percent overspent," Mr. Nave said. "We're hoping the commissioners supplement the budget from the 'rainy day fund.' If we have to take this from roads maintenance, we won't have any money to patch the potholes."

Roads crews estimated that by last weekend they had spent $1,150,000, including money for salt that has been ordered but not yet received, Mr. Horst said. County officials had budgeted $540,000 for snow removal.

"That is just an estimate," he cautioned. "They've been as buried with paperwork as we have been with snow." The remaining money will have to come from the county's contingency account, he said.

County salt supplies are good, at this point, Mr. Nave said. After deliveries of 250 tons Thursday and 60 tons Friday, the county has about 500 tons of salt stored, he said.

Hampstead

The town has spent $7,265 on salt, far more than the $4,100 it had budgeted for the winter, town records show. A town official said there is enough salt on hand to handle another storm.

Taneytown

Taneytown budgeted $2,500 for snow removal, but has spent about $10,000 for salaries, salt purchases and outside contracts to independent snow-removal companies, said clerk-treasurer Linda Hess.

"We've had some really light winters for a long time," she said, explaining the low budget figure. "We'll have to do a budget transfer at the end of the year."

Manchester

The winter storms have cost Manchester nearly $9,200 in overtime for the town's eight water and sewer employees, who have doubled as snow removers for 812 hours this season, said Kelly Baldwin, Manchester's clerk-treasurer. The town had budgeted $3,200 in snow-removal overtime for the entire winter.

Although she didn't know how much salt the town has used, she said it has cost more than $11,200, about triple the $4,000 budgeted for the winter. She said there was some salt on hand and the town could get another shipment soon. "We're way over," she said of the snow removal budget. But, she said, the town will probably be able to shift money from other parts of the general fund.

Westminster

Westminster's roads department has received an advance from the City Council, which should hold work crews through the winter, Mr. Gross said.

"We could get some snow, but not anything like we had before," he said. "We had that blizzard last March, but snow is different than ice.

"The last snow storm, we fought it all day and night and into the next day and didn't have to put salt down until the final run.

"That really helped us, that it wasn't real cold."

Keeping Westminster's 46 miles of roads passable has been a formidable job for the city's 20 snow removers, Mr. Gross said. He said more than 1,400 tons of salt and abrasive material have been spread so far, equaling the amount of anti-skid material the city had expected to use all season.

On Friday, the city was down to between 40 and 50 tons of salt, Mr.Gross said, and he was planning to call a supplier that had promised a shipment soon.

And then, he planned to seek even warmer temperatures.

"I'm getting ready to go to Florida," he said, with a triumphant laugh. "I'm leaving this weekend, and it's starting to get nice."

Information was not available from New Windsor, Mount Airy, Sykesville and Union Bridge.

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