Snow-removal budget in city has been used up

$1.6 million gone, but efforts to clear streets will continue

January 28, 2000|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore Department of Public Works exhausted its $1.6 million snow-removal budget yesterday, but officials say they will continue to clear snow-clogged streets even though they are not sure how to pay for it.

Howard County announced Wednesday that it had exceeded their $250,000 snow-removal budget. Other counties also are grappling with busted budgets.

The announcements have come as the area faces a possible winter storm this weekend. The National Weather Service might issue a winter storm watch as early as today for possible sleet, snow and freezing rain late tomorrow and all of Sunday.

"We are not going to stop fighting snow because of the budget," said city Public Works Director George Winfield. "We cannot just say we are out of money."

Winfield does not know how the city will pay for the remaining months of snow and ice removal, but he does not plan to cut other areas of the Public Works Department's $500 million yearly budget.

"We are going to have to do some creative financing," said Tony White, a spokesman for Mayor Martin O'Malley.

One option is to ask the state for more money from the Motor Vehicle Fund, which distributes gasoline-tax proceeds to local municipalities.

Mike Morrill, spokesman for Gov. Parris N. Glendening, said the state is also struggling and that no requests have come from the counties for financial aid. Any application would have to be approved by the legislature, he said.

Anne Arundel County officials said they had spent $211,000 of their $280,000 snow budget before this week's storm, and officials expect to exhaust the budget.

Carroll County budgets $737,000 for storm emergencies. Ted Zeleski, an analyst with the county Department of Management and Budget, said he doubts the county is over budget.

Baltimore County has spent $1.8 million of its $2 million storm emergency budget.

Harford County Executive James M. Harkins said that county has spent almost $500,000 for snow removal, at one point spending $7,000 an hour to fight the storm.

"I don't know right now what percentage that is of our overall [snow removal] budget," Harkins said. "But it made a pretty significant dent."

It was estimated the city will have spent about $1.75 million on snow removal by this morning.

Kurt Kocher, a Public Works Department spokesman, said it is not unusual for the city to exceed its $1.6 million snow-removal budget, which is based on the city's 10-year average of receiving about 20 inches of snow per winter.

Sun staff writers Laura Sullivan, Mary Gail Hare, Ivan Penn and Rafael Alvarez contributed to this article.

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