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Snow-removal bills piling up for county

December 22, 2009|By DAVE McMILLION and HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- Washington County spent more than $7,000 to pull snow-removal trucks out of ditches after last weekend's snowstorm, and the cost statewide of removing snow from the record storm is nearing $27 million, local and state officials said Tuesday.

Washington County Public Schools canceled classes for Wednesday, the third straight day schools have been closed as a result of the storm that left as much as 24 inches of snow in some parts of Washington County.

The county was still tallying its expenses from the storm, but they were "significant," Washington County Public Works Director Joseph Kroboth III told the Washington County Commissioners on Tuesday.

Kroboth said there were at least 20 incidents in which trucks slid off the road and required other large trucks or towing rigs to pull them out. One truck rolled over and another truck came close to rolling over, Kroboth said.

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After the snow melts, the county could hear about additional costs related to damage caused by trucks that might have run off roads and torn up yards, Kroboth said.

He said the county would submit a request to the state through the Division of Fire and Emergency Services to try to recover some of the expenses because a state of emergency was declared.

Kroboth commended the county's highway department and emergency services division for their ongoing efforts in response to the snow.

Kroboth said the county received some complaints about not clearing certain roads soon enough, but he said the first 24 hours of the operation were solely dedicated to attempting to keep main roads open, and supporting fire and rescue efforts.

"Our people plowed the way for numerous cardiac arrests and medical emergencies, working closely with emergency services," he said.

Kroboth said the county landfill provided operators and equipment to help with snow removal.

Kroboth said the county stopped its overtime work Sunday evening, but has continued working to clear roads with normal staffing levels. He said the work probably would continue into next week.

The $27 million that was spent statewide for snow removal was the result of required around-the-clock snow-clearing operations on roads and transit, airport, port and Motor Vehicle Administration facilities.

"Combating a storm like the one Maryland faced this weekend is a necessary but expensive proposition," Transportation Secretary Beverly K. Swaim-Staley said. "Agency administrators understand that they will have to make adjustments in other areas of their operating budgets to cover any overage of their annual snow-removal budget."

Hagerstown city officials were still tallying the costs of the storm cleanup, City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said Tuesday.

The city has spent $18,465 for salt, and another order costing $63,576 has been placed, Zimmerman said.

City workers have been removing snow from city streets and dumping it in a city-owned lot across from a public works building at Memorial Boulevard and Potomac Street, Zimmerman said.

The Hagerstown weather forecast calls for mostly sunny skies today and Thursday, but there is a slight chance of freezing rain after 1 a.m. Friday. The chance of precipitation is 20 percent, according to the National Weather Service.

Nikole Listemaa, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said it is too early to determine how much freezing rain might fall.

The precipitation is expected to change over to all rain later in the day, Listemaa said.

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