The county is all set - if snow ever arrives

Officials gather to offer annual winter reassurance

December 16, 2006|By Josh Mitchell | Josh Mitchell,Sun Reporter

Never mind that the forecast includes temperatures in the 60s. Never mind that not a single snowflake is expected to touch the ground anytime soon.

Baltimore County officials gathered in front of a barn full of road salt yesterday for what has become a yearly ritual: Assuring the public that when snow hits, the streets will get plowed. And quickly.

"Mayors have been dust. Governors have lost. If you don't take care of snow, you don't serve," said County Executive James T. Smith Jr.

The pressure for local governments to plow streets quickly is immense. One County Council candidate this year said he decided to run for office after officials failed to plow his street quickly enough.

So every December, Smith and public works officials gather at Highway Shop 5 on Bosley Avenue in Towson and, in front of television cameras, tell the public just how ready they are.

The county has 40,000 tons of road salt, 300-plus plows and salt trucks, and 400 people to do the job. The tab for a typical winter: $3.5 million.

Yesterday, they also urged residents to take steps of their own.

Park cars off public roads during any storm. Clear car windows of any snow before driving. If you're out of shape, avoid shoveling and hire neighborhood kids to do the job instead. Buy three days' worth of food before a big storm.

"If I can ask anything of the public, it's patience," said Robert "Tim" Burgess, chief of the county bureau of highways. "It's not an instantaneous job."

Officials said it takes 24 hours for workers to plow all 2,648 miles of county-maintained roadways.

George Kapusinski, an information technology manager from Catonsville, said that after a snowstorm hit his neighborhood on a Saturday several years ago, plows didn't visit the streets until Tuesday. He said he called his county councilman's office to see when his street would be plowed and was not satisfied with the response. He decided to run for office after that. He lost in the general election this year to Democratic Councilman Stephen G. Samuel Moxley of Catonsville.

"If we're supposed to be leading the country in job growth and economic development, we've got to be able to get to work," Kapusinski said. " On the local level, those are the type of things people look for" from their elected leaders.

Smith said one of his first duties before taking office four years ago was to meet with public works officials and make sure the county was ready for snow. Two days after his inauguration, a snowstorm hit - and he says things went smoothly.

The incongruity of talking about snow during a week when the forecast highs are in the 50s and 60s was not lost on county public information employees. They placed a top hat, plaid scarf and paper carrot on the ground, and said that Frosty the Snowman had decided to attend the news conference.

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