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Snow removal budgets exhausted

February 21, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The snowstorms this winter have cost Washington County at least $600,000 more than the $500,000 that was budgeted for snow-related costs, Washington County Public Works Director Gary Rohrer said Thursday.

Meanwhile, the City of Hagerstown is an estimated $120,000 over its $310,000 snow removal budget, Hagerstown Finance Director Alfred Martin said Thursday.

The city will try to cut costs and delay purchasing some items to make up for the higher-than-expected snow budget expenses, Martin said.

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The city has received more than 51 inches of snow this year, compared with 7 inches of snow for all of winter last year, according to Hagerstown weather observer Greg Keefer's Web site.

The area usually receives an average of about 30 inches of snowfall, according to the Web site.

The county will use about $600,000 of about $1 million in Highway Department reserves to pay for the unexpected expenses, Rohrer said.

The reserve fund is set aside for "a rainy day," so the weather-related costs certainly fit that description, he said.

The county spent $905,000 on snow removal costs, including labor, materials and equipment rental, even before this weekend's storm, Rohrer said.

The weekend storm that dropped 23.3 inches in Hagerstown cost the Highway Department at least $200,000, Rohrer said.

If there is major flooding this weekend, when rain is forecast, there could be an additional $100,000 in costs related to this week's storm, he said.

Martin said the city exhausted all but $5,000 of the $310,000 budget before this week's storm.

The city is estimating it has cost $100,000 to $125,000 to react to and clean up this week's storm, he said. He does not have an estimate on how much it will cost the city to deal with flooding costs, he said.

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

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

All Washington County municipalities, including the City of Hagerstown, are keeping detailed accounts of expenses related to this week's storm, Emergency Services Director Joe Kroboth said Wednesday.

Washington County declared a state of emergency Sunday, following Gov. Robert Ehrlich's designation for Maryland. The county's declaration means county municipalities will be eligible for Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursement if the area is declared a disaster area by the federal government.

The reimbursement process is complicated and can take a long time, Kroboth said.

The area probably will be dry before the federal government makes a decision about reimbursement, he said.

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