Heavy snows breaking budgets
CUMBERLAND — Snow removal budgets in Allegany and Garrett counties are meaningless at this point, roads supervisors say.
“The budget has crumbled. We still haven’t calculated all of the most recent numbers, but it’s crumbled,” Allegany County Roads Division Chief Jim Lashley said Monday. “We might as well just tear it up and throw it out.”
Lashley said all county roads were open as of Monday, but cleanup from the storm required maintenance crews to work 16-hour shifts all weekend. That added up to more than $50,000 just in overtime costs from Friday to Sunday.
“Usually we only budget $80,000 for the whole winter, and most of the time we’ve stayed under that,” Lashley said. “But it depends on the kind of winter you have. This is the worst it’s been for a while.”
Allegany County crews must clear snow from about 550 miles of roadway, working from four garages, located in Cumberland, Frostburg, Oldtown and Little Orleans. The Cumberland and Frostburg garages operate seven snow-clearing routes each, while the outlying garages operate five.
Lashley said county snow removal funds aren’t tapped out yet, but could be soon if more storms keep pelting the area.
Garrett County’s overtime budget is nearly or completely exhausted, according to Roads General Superintendent Jay Moyer.
Already this winter, the county has used more than 12,299 man hours of overtime, Moyer said.
“We’ve prepared for this by banking $1.5 million from our paving budget last year,” Moyer said. “We’re probably going to start using some of that money.”
Garrett halted its paving projects at their halfway points and has been holding that money in reserve in case it would be needed for a rough winter, a practice the county began in 2008.
“What’s hurt our budget more than anything is that these snow events have fallen on weekends and holidays, so those hours are all overtime,” Moyer said. “We’ve also had these guys working seven days a week at times, and that gets expensive.”
Moyer said cleanup from a storm that hit earlier in the winter cost the county between $42,000 and $50,000 per day, and that one was not as severe as the one that hit Friday. That cost doesn’t include money spent on anti-skid material and equipment maintenance, he added.
The county budgeted $812,000 for fuel for its equipment, and has spent $408,000 so far. It budgeted $750,000 for anti-skid, and has spent $422,000 of that money.
Moyer said the county should be in good shape in both of those areas.
“By the time winter’s over, we anticipate we’ll have used the full amount budgeted, but we don’t anticipate going over that,” he said.
The county had all roads open in time for schools to hold classes Monday, but Moyer said he was concerned about the storm that’s expected to arrive today.
“We’re hearing there may be winds involved in the next one, which could cause more problems for us because of drifting,” Moyer said. “We already have snow stacked up about as high as we can stack it in a lot of these places.”