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'Sno small savings from mild winter

March 05, 2002|BY DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

Hundreds of thousands of dollars that would have gone into plowing snow-covered streets, or salting and sanding icy roads have stayed in the coffers of governments throughout the Tri-State area thanks to relatively mild weather this winter.

In some areas the money saved will go toward additional road repairs or repaving.

So far, the City of Hagerstown has spent about $90,000 less on snow removal than it does in an average year.

The West Virginia Division of Highways spent at least $100,000 less battling winter weather in each of the three Eastern Panhandle counties than it did last winter.

In Pennsylvania, the state Department of Transportation has saved about $1 million on salt, sand and snow/ice melting chemicals in the eight-county highway maintenance district that includes Franklin County.

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Although the savings are significant now, some government officials said the money can't be spent elsewhere yet because we may not have seen the last snow storm of the season.

"We can't count our chickens before they hatch," Washington County Administrator Rodney Shoop said. "We still have a lot of snow weather ahead of us."

Washington County budgeted about $450,000 for snow removal this season, and so far has spent about $225,000, according to figures from the County Highway Department.

Unspent snow removal money would go back into the Highway Department budget, with some of it used for road repairs, Shoop said.

Hagerstown's Mayor and City Council would decide what to do with any unused city money, City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said.

By the end of February, the city had spent about $130,000 on snow removal, equipment, and snow/ice melting materials, City Finance Director Al Martin said.

A typical winter costs the city about $220,000, City Public Works Manager Eric Deike said.

Statewide, the West Virginia Division of Highways is more than $13 million under budget this winter, with substantial savings coming in Berkeley, Morgan and Jefferson counties, agency spokeswoman Carol Melling said.

Snow removal operations in each of the three counties have cost from $80,000 to $100,000 this winter, compared to last winter when the costs ranged from about $200,000 to $227,000, Melling said.

Carl Thompson, an agency engineer, said the savings will be used for road maintenance and repaving.

In Pennsylvania, the mild weather not only saved money on snow removal but also has allowed highway workers to get a jump on springtime cleanup and maintenance, State Department of Transportation spokesman Michael Crochunis said.

"Our guys are out there doing other things like brush cutting, picking up trash, pothole patching ... We're getting a jump on the spring," Crochunis said.

About $9.2 million was budgeted this year to pay for salt, sand and ice/snow melting chemicals for the eight-county district that includes Franklin County, he said.

So far, the department is about $1 million under budget on those items, he said.

All the savings can be attributed to a winter that has brought few snow storms to the area this year.

Hagerstown plows hit the streets for only two storms in January this winter, Deike said.

According to Hagerstown weather observer Greg Keefer's Web site, about 7 inches of snow fell in Hagerstown this winter, and almost all of it was in January.

Last winter, almost 23 inches of snow fell in Hagerstown, and the city saw more than 29 inches of snow during the 1999-2000 winter, according to Keefer's records.

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