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Storms could eat cleanup budget

December 27, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - If winter brings much more snow and ice to the area, the City of Hagerstown and Washington County governments may exceed their budgets for snow removal, city and county officials said Thursday.

Including the Christmas cleanup costs, the city has spent about $146,000 of the $309,818 budgeted for snow removal this year, Hagerstown Assistant Finance Director Ray Foltz said Thursday.

Snow-removal expenses include labor, vehicles, salt and related expenses, he said.

The last time the city paid close to that amount so early in the winter season was in 1995, when snow removal costs reached $89,306 by the end of December, he said. By the end of that winter season, total snow-removal costs were $671,074, he said.

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That year, 68.8 inches of snow fell in the region, according to Hagerstown weather observer Greg Keefer's Internet site at http://i4weather.net.

Last year, the city budgeted $298,588 for snow cleanup work but spent only about $135,000 because the winter was a mild one, Foltz said.

The city had 7 inches of snow last year, Keefer's Web site said.

What does the city need if it is to avoid exceeding its snow-removal budget? "We need spring," Foltz said.

A winter storm dumped 5.3 inches of snow in Hagerstown on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Keefer's Web site said. So far this season, 14.3 inches of snow have fallen, the site said.

Mayor William M. Breichner said he is praying there will be no more snow this winter even though his wife, former City Clerk Gann Breichner, is praying for it.

Breichner said he understands that there are those who like snow for Christmas, but said it costs the city about 50 percent more than usual to do snow clean-up work on the holiday.

"Let the citizens consider this their Christmas present. But no more," Breichner said.

January and February tend to be the months when the most snow falls, he said.

Washington County Highway Department Director Ted Wolford said he has heard reports suggesting that the second half of this year's winter will not be as bad as the first half, and he hopes they are correct.

Washington County budgeted $498,308 for snow cleanup this year, he said.

Wolford said cleaning up the season's first two storms cost $183,000. He said he does not have the cost for the holiday storm.

The county budgeted $282,454 last year and spent less than that because there were only two major storms, Wolford said.

When the city and county go over budget on snow expenses they can use discretionary funds and reserve funds to make up the difference, Wolford and Breichner said. They said they prefer that not to happen, because it can take money needed for other things.

Breichner said, however, the city would not shirk its responsibility for keeping the roads safe for traveling.

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