Hayden announces plan to improve snow removal March blizzard prompted changes


Stung by public complaints about snow removal after the blizzard in March, Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden yesterday announced a new plan to clear the roads this winter.

In two major changes, the county will integrate the school department's 24 heavy snow trucks with its own fleet of 125 vehicles and will hire private contractors to help clear 11 major county roadways.

In addition, Mr. Hayden said, the county will call its drivers in before snow starts falling, instead of waiting for snow to build up.

Mr. Hayden said school board trucks will be equipped with salt spreaders, which they don't have now, and county trucks will now pick up salt from the nearest supply depot, whether the depot is owned by the state or county. That will keep the trucks from making long trips to replenish their salt supplies.

Also, he said, the county has contingency contracts to hire more private equipment, such as road graders and backhoes, for heavy storms.

County Council members, briefed on the plan yesterday, generally gave it high marks, although they asked public works officials to contact them about trouble spots in their districts. They also asked the administration to find a better way for them to pass on complaints from constituents.

Some council members were deluged by complaints after the March storm from residents who said that some streets were cleared regularly while others went untouched for days.

They blamed the problem on Mr. Hayden's February layoffs and administrative reorganization, which cost the county its three most experienced plowing supervisors.

Budget cuts have chopped more than 50 crewmen from the highway department in recent years. To cut back on overtime, the county stopped calling drivers in until snow started falling and did not plow until it reached a depth of 3 inches.

But a mixture of heavy snow, rain, and then more snow exposed weaknesses in the plan as workers struggled to keep some rural roads open while many urban residential streets weren't plowed for days.

The new plan will reduce the number of miles each truck covers from 20 to 16, and increase the number of snow removal routes from 125 to 160. In addition, Mr. Hayden said, trucks will spread salt every four hours or so, instead of just once before plowing starts.

The integrated force of school and county trucks will work together to clear major roadways first, and then will join smaller school board vehicles to help clear school parking lots.

State highways crews will still plow major state-maintained arteries such as Liberty, Reisterstown, York, Belair and Harford roads.

Private contractors, meanwhile, will be responsible for the county's largest connecting streets, such as Rolling, Windsor Mill, Joppa, and Padonia roads, along with Merritt Boulevard, and Wise and Holabird avenues.

The executive said that more accurate weather forecasting will enable him to call truck crews in before snow begins falling, without having the men sit around earning hours of overtime while they wait.

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