Gone but not forgotten Lasting impact: Paying for Operation Blizzard is next headache of local governments.

January 29, 1996

MUCH OF THE SNOW from the blizzard of '96 has melted, but local governments across the area are still dealing with the aftermath of this month's storms. Public works chiefs are attempting to rebutt charges they failed to adequately plow the streets, while budget directors are trying to find money to cover the extraordinary costs.

Judging the quality of the road-clearing seems to depend on the eye of the beholder. Every jurisdiction had complaints, although few matched the dissatisfaction of one Walter S. Davison. The Carroll County resident is alleged to have attacked a plow driver with a shovel who had plowed shut Mr. Davison's freshly cleaned driveway Jan. 12. He was charged with malicious destruction, assault and battery.

Judging the snow removal efforts is a squishy science. Not so nebulous are the $65 million-plus in bills coming due for what has been called Maryland's most expensive storm on record. All area governments have applied for federal assistance. They will be notified in a month or so about how much they will receive.

We were intrigued by a compilation in this newspaper of what the various jurisdictions spent per mile: Baltimore County, $796; Baltimore, $800; Anne Arundel, $1,225; Howard, $1,247; Carroll, $1,387; Harford, $2,947.

We're still not sure if that meant Harford did three times as good a job as the city, or was three times less efficient. However, even suburban public works directors acknowledge that the city's job is made tougher by virtue of street grids and having less open space to push snow.

Another county official suggests per-capita costs might be a better measure of the snow removal value: Baltimore County, $2.79; Anne Arundel, $4.26; Baltimore, $4.61; Howard, $4.85; Carroll, $9.30; Harford, $13.39. Harford's still high, although most residents would agree that spending a few bucks per head to free their neighborhoods was worth it.

With nearly seven more weeks of winter remaining, the counties' battle with the snow is only partly over. The calendar (not to mention the venerable Hagers-Town Town & Country Almanack) says it's too early for county officials to record their budget adjustments in ink, or to think they have heard the last of complaints on snow removal.

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