Budget for snow removal exceeded

$1.3 million spent

rainy day fund seen as possible bailout

February 02, 2000|By Scott Calvert | Scott Calvert,SUN STAFF WRITER

The recent snowstorms have melted away this season's Anne Arundel County snow-removal budget, with weeks of winter still to come.

Officials are hopeful that a $1 million rainy day fund will absorb the excess expense and avoid the need to consider cutting elsewhere in the budget.

"At this point in time, we don't anticipate that being a problem," said John R. Hammond, the county's financial officer.

As of yesterday, the county had spent about $850,000 on salt, sand, overtime and private plowing contractors, more than three times the $280,000 earmarked, said John A. Morris, spokesman for the Department of Public Works.

Including $450,000 budgeted for employees' regular pay and the use of county equipment, the total snow-fighting tab has reached $1.3 million.

"It's more than usual," Morris said, noting that over the past 10 years snow-related costs have averaged about $1 million per winter.

This year's total will continue to grow, even if the county doesn't see another flake. Crews were still laboring yesterday to clear icy roads, and workers were scheduled to put in long days today and tomorrow, Morris said.

Warmer daytime temperatures have been melting ice, but chilly nights have caused refreezing and made roads treacherous.

Sunday's storm, which coated cars, trees and wires with ice, was too much for plow trucks, so the county fired up a motor grader, a 33-foot behemoth with a sharp blade that can slice ice, and hired five more from private companies.

This year's snow-removal effort pales beside that of 1996, when costs soared to $4 million and the county received money from the federal government.

Since then, winters have been milder. The county spent $800,000 to clear snow-covered roads in 1997, $100,000 in 1998 and $1.1 million last year.

This winter started off mild, but about an inch of snow fell in mid-January. A few days later 6 inches fell. Then the county mobilized crews and trucks for a forecast storm that never materialized.

Those were mere warm-ups for the 20 inches that fell on the county Jan. 25. Sunday's storm added about 3 more inches of snow to the season's total, plus an inch of ice.

All told, the county had measured about 2 1/2 feet of snow by the start of this month.

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