Area foots big bills for scant snow cleanup

Arundel spends $955,709 for removal efforts

April 02, 2001|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Snow was scarce but expensive to move in Central Maryland last winter.

The National Weather Service measured 7.7 inches of snow at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, a forecaster said. But each inch that fell in Howard County cost taxpayers about $100,000 to clear.

"Over the last 15 years, we've spent from $60,000 to $1.5 million" per year for snow removal, said Howard County highways chief Andrew Daneker. Howard used 15,900 tons of salt, 1,400 tons of cinders for especially slippery spots and 2,200 gallons of magnesium chloride, a liquid coating that boosts salt's effectiveness on very cold days.

"This was an average [$817,000] year," said James M. Irvin, Howard's public works director, who is asking the County Council for $317,400 more from the county's nearly empty contingency fund to cover the full costs.

Howard's policy of not calling out road crews until snow starts falling saved a lot of money when predictions of heavy snow failed to materialize on two occasions, Irvin said.

In much larger Baltimore County, where snow was sometimes heavier, officials spent $3.2 million and used 47,000 tons of salt and 10,000 gallons of magnesium chloride.

"There were a lot of little ice-type affairs," said county highways bureau chief Robert Burgess. Baltimore County called out road crews for the two "no-show" storms, he said, which added substantially to the bill.

"The meteorologists couldn't get a storm right this year," he said with disgust.

Baltimore County is so big, stretching from the Pennsylvania border to Lansdowne and from Catonsville to Dundalk, that officials believe they have to get crews out before flakes start appearing or risk falling behind.

More compact Baltimore spent $1.2 million on snow removal and spread 19,200 tons of salt, said Kurt Kocher, city public works spokesman. But Kocher said city officials measured 15 inches of snow this winter, about half of that in one storm.

According to the National Weather Service, snow amounts varied widely in Central Maryland during four storms - Dec. 19, Jan. 20-21, Feb. 5 and Feb. 22 - from about 7 inches along the Chesapeake Bay to 23 inches in sections of northeastern Baltimore County. But road crews often are called out for small amounts of snow and ice that leave roads slippery at dawn and clear by noon.

The city placed four trucks and drivers out for the predicted major storms that never arrived, but not a whole crew, Kocher said. "We held back on that. We didn't want to waste money. We're not going to put people out there until it's going to hit us or it's close."

Anne Arundel County spent $955,709, said spokesman John Morris, $371,000 of that on salt. Anne Arundel also called in highway crews based on predictions of heavy snow, Morris said, paying to keep the plows available until the storms passed.

"We spent more on private contractors this year," he said. That accounted for $282,000 of the total cost.

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