March weather in Carroll County is famously unpredictable and even within the county winter precipitation can vary. Sudden winter storms require a fleet of snow plows, salt trucks and drivers on short notice. Sometimes, lots of salt.
Though the weather is currently warming after measurable snowfalls each week in February that kept the grass, and often the roads, snow-covered, the Times checked in with all of Carroll’s municipalities and county government to see how much money has been spent on snow removal and how much is remaining in the event of a March surprise.
Carroll County does not have a specific snow removal budget according to Catherine Virtz, the county’s road administrative supervisor. The county has an emergency maintenance budget, and for fiscal year 2021 the budget was $2,167,160. Of this, 50% is allocated for salt.
“The Bureau of Roads doesn’t have a specific allocation for power lines, trees, etc. Our emergency maintenance budget is all inclusive and covers everything from snow removal, emergency tree removal, acts of nature responses such as tornadoes, high winds etc.,” Virtz told the Times.
With the exception of current salt orders that haven’t been accounted for, the county has approximately half-a-million dollars left for emergency maintenance with a little over $87,000 remaining for salt allocation.
“The past three years we’ve had hardly anything, but this year we had some continual snow,” Virtz said. “We had a couple snows and then it would be clear for a day and then a little bit more snow. It was definitely more accumulation than we had probably over the past two to three years.”
Hampstead budgets approximately $30,000 for snow removal every year, said Tammi Ledley, the town manager, and about half of this year’s budget has been used.
“We normally budget enough in case we do get a lot of snow. And as you know, the past few years, we haven’t so far we have not gone over budget,” Ledley said.
Salt usually accounts for about 60% of the budget with the remaining amount budgeted for equipment repair and maintenance.
But this year’s back-to-back storms left the city of Hampstead scrambling for salt.
“It was difficult to find salt, but we were able to find salt,” Ledley said.
In case of a March winter storm, Ledley said they are prepared.
“We have a large order salt that’s on its way and we’re in a good position right now,” Ledley said.
Manchester has spent almost double its budgeted allocation for overtime contractors related to snow removal, said Kelly Baldwin, director of finance. The town had a $15,000 budget for overtime salaries and spent a little over $28,000.
Another $15,000 was allocated for road salt, with $7,807 having been spent so far.
Baldwin says these numbers are not exact and is still waiting for bills from the last snowstorm.
Due to a lack of snow last year, Mount Airy did not have to buy salt this year said Charlene Singleton, the town’s senior accounting clerk.
“We have not purchased any salt yet. We had a full shed as of the end of our last fiscal year that ended in June,” Singleton said.
But the town still had an allocated budget of $50,000 for snow removal supply and maintenance, of which $3,500 has be accounted for — though Singleton is expecting the numbers to be higher once incoming invoices have been paid.
" I have seen some invoices come through for me to review that they have not been paid yet for things like snow plows and salt spreaders and things like that. So that number is really low. It’ll be much higher by the end of March,” Singleton said.
New Windsor has also exceeded its snow removal budget this fiscal year Neal Roop, mayor of New Windsor, said.
The town had budgeted $12,300 and has spent $12,411 so far. $2,000 was allocated separately for salt and the town has paid $9,560 in snow removal bills not including salt.
In the case of an emergency Roop says, “we’ll just have to move some money around.”
A majority of the town’s snow removal budget has already been used —85 to 90 percent — according to Joe Cosentini, town manager for Sykesville.
The annual budget is around $30,000 and consists of all snow removal supplies such as salt and equipment that is used in the snow removal process as well as overtime salaries. Of this, salt accounts for approximately 75% of the budget.
Cosentini says the budget for snow removal will be tight for the remainder of the year but he’s optimistic the town will make it through the season.
“We’ve had several, several snowstorms that we hadn’t necessarily seen in the last fiscal years, but we’re pretty confident we’re going to be right there at the thirty thousand-dollar mark when the snow season’s over,” Cosentini said. “Obviously, if there’s a significant snow event, then we probably exceed our budget. But, you know, as long as it’s another storm that’s consistent with the other ones that we’ve seen, we should be able to handle another storm or two.”
Cosentini said his department also had a difficult time finding salt despite having a large supply to start with.
Taneytown budgeted $80,000 for snow removal during FY21 according to Kevin Smeak, director of Public Works.
“At this point the only numbers for how much we spent of the 80K is what we spent on equipment repair and the money spent for snow to be hauled one time from the metered spaces along the main streets,” Smeak told the Times in an email.