$8 million requested for snow removal fund

Last week's storm cost Balto. County $3.5 million, Public Works tells council

February 26, 2003|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County's Public Works Department has asked the County Council to transfer $8 million into its snowplowing fund to pay the costs of clearing this winter's near-record snowfall and expenses arising from future storms.

The county spent its $2 million budget and then some by the first week of January. Since then, the county has experienced five major snowfalls, including last week's - the largest snowstorm in the area's history. Public Works Director Edward C. Adams told County Council members at their work session yesterday that the department spent nearly $3.5 million on last week's storm.

County Budget and Finance Officer Fred Homan said the money would come from an undesignated general fund surplus account. If the council approves the transfer, the county will have nearly $27 million in that account, plus $65 million in another rainy-day fund.

Adams said the county secured reimbursements from the state for snowplowing and ice-clearing costs in 1996 and 2000 and will try to do so again this year.

Adams and council members expressed frustration at the public's response to the county's snow-clearing efforts in the most recent storm. Adams said he has been getting complaints from people asking the county to move piles of snow from one part of a street to another, even though the mounds aren't impeding traffic or access to driveways or sidewalks.

"I think there was a sense that the community didn't fully appreciate this was the snow of the century," said Council Chairman Kevin Kamenetz, a Pikesville-Ruxton Democrat.

Adams said the county acted much earlier than it did in the major snowstorm of 1996 to secure private contractors to help with the snow-clearing effort. As the cleanup wore on, the county sent "small armies" of workers into some neighborhoods to clear problem roads, he noted.

"I assure you, no one went home, and we were working as hard as we could," Adams said.

Adams said he is still calculating snow removal costs, but expects the $8 million transfer would give the department a $1.3 million cushion to handle any additional storms this winter.

More snow is forecast this week.

"Rest up," Kamenetz told Adams. "I understand you'll be out again" tonight.

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