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Storms strain winter budgets

January 14, 1999|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

Winter storms are putting some governments in Washington County on a slippery financial slope.

Just a few weeks and few storms into the season, Washington County has spent about 70 percent of its snow removal budget and the City of Hagerstown has spent more than 50 percent of the money it had set aside for plowing, salt and sand, officials said.

Ted Wolford, director of the Washington County Highway Department, said the three winter storms this season have been costlier than typical storms for two reasons: The storms have been more ice than snow, and they have come on nights or weekends when workers must be paid overtime.

The county budget for snow removal is $320,555. As of Thursday afternoon, the county had spent an estimated $225,000 to clear the roads, Wolford said.

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Wolford said the county has used an estimated 2,500 tons of salt, which cost the county about $90,000.

"When it's just snow we use salt mainly on hills, curbs and sidewalks. But when we have this ice we have to almost coat the whole road," Wolford said.

Wolford said he couldn't even guess how much money has been spent to pay crews for overtime.

And if the county ends up spending more that is budgeted?

"We just go over budget and work it out in the end," Wolford said. "We have to clear the roads. We can't be so particular on that budget."

Wolford said if the county eventually spends more than was budgeted for snow removal, some road repaving projects could be put on hold for a few months or money could be taken from reserve accounts.

As of last Sunday evening, the City of Hagerstown had spent about $96,800 of its $173,000 snow removal budget, according to city Finance Director Al Martin.

Martin said the city can afford to go a little over budget, although officials eventually might have to consider cost-cutting options, including postponing buying new vehicles.

Elsewhere in the Tri-State area, spending on snow removal was more slowly approaching budget estimates.

In Chambersburg, Pa., about $27,000 of a $120,000 snow removal budget has been spent this winter, said Bob Wagner, the borough Director of Public Works.

The City of Martinsburg, W.Va., has spent about $10,000 from its $50,000 snow removal supplies budget, according to City Manager Mark Baldwin.

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