Balto. Co. gets geared for snow emergencies Better phone service, computer map planned

December 04, 1996|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Because of an editing error, Charles R. Harrison's title, chief of the Baltimore County bureau of highways and traffic operations, was reported incorrectly in an article in The Sun on Wednesday.

The Sun regrets the error.

Hit by unusually severe winter weather twice in the past three years, Baltimore County officials plan some new twists in their annual struggle with nature.

First, new technology: a computer map of the county's 166 snowplow routes. When perfected -- officials hope by midwinter -- residents will be able to check road conditions from their personal computers.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

And the mundane: a better phone system so residents who call county agencies during storms won't encounter an endless busy signal.

"We're always going to be on top of it," County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger said yesterday of his stance on storm emergencies.

He also renewed a vow to personally lead workers clearing roads -- something made easier yesterday by the removal of a cast from his right foot after surgery in mid-September. "I want to be out there myself," Ruppersberger said, recalling that complaints about icy road conditions and salt shortages in early 1994 helped him defeat then-County Executive Roger B. Hayden later that year. Some residents blamed Hayden's budget cuts and layoffs for the problems.

At an hourlong session yesterday to review winter preparations, State Highway Administration chief Charles Harrison reported that the 12 salt storage barns are full with 24,000 tons for the 2,500 miles of local roads. A fleet of 211 trucks with plows is waiting, including 44 owned by private contractors the county has agreements with. A force of 281 will handle the equipment.

In case of another blizzard like last winter's, the county has arranged for five schools to be used as resting places for plow drivers, who will work 12-hour shifts, instead of around the clock. Firehouses will provide food.

New computer software will provide links to state weather stations and better coordination for snow removal, a county spokesman said. The phone system upgrades will allow operators to stack up to three calls each without cutting callers off.

The Ruppersberger administration appropriated $1.4 million for storm emergencies this year, though Harrison said some of the money was used Thanksgiving, for snow flurries north of Towson.

Last year's snowstorms cost a record $5.4 million to clear.

Pub Date: 12/04/96

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