Snow removal budgets exhausted for Harford County, municipalities

Even before Thursday's snowfall of anywhere from 10 to 18 inches blanketed Harford County, the county and local municipal governments had pretty much exhausted their snow removal budgets.

Though officials expected to be digging deep into their pockets to pay for the extra costs from an unusually harsh winter, they gave assurances that plowing and salting would continue, regardless of the need for additional money.

Plows were out in force Thursday, cleaning up from the biggest snow of the season.

Excluding Thursday's storm, the county was $100,000 over its snow budget of $1.46 million, with weeks of winter left, county spokeswoman Sherrie Johnson said.

Aberdeen was also near the end of its funds, Matt Lapinsky, public works director, said just before the season's biggest storm was set to hit the East Coast late Wednesday.

Lapinsky said he had 1,000 tons of salt remaining and just ordered 800 more tons.

"We have probably exhausted it at this point," Lapinsky said of the city's snow budget.

Governments around the region have been facing shortages of funds and supplies to keep roads clear as storms have been coming through on a nearly weekly basis this winter.

"They have been back to back to back, and we haven't been able to sit down and take a hard look at [the budget]," Lapinsky said Wednesday.

Havre de Grace has been over budget since the ice storm last week, Mayor Wayne Dougherty said Thursday morning.

"After that last [snow] event, we had to order another ton of salt," Dougherty said.

He said most of the extra funds were from actual snow and salt costs, not from paying for employee overtime.

Dougherty said he has additional funds in the overtime budget.

"Until this point, even with the previous storm that I had, I hadn't had to do too much of overtime," he said.

Neither Lapinsky nor Dougherty knew their exact snow budgets, nor how much over budget they were, by Thursday morning.

Havre de Grace public works officials did not return calls in time for this story.

Bel Air Mayor, Robert Reier did not have an estimate of his city's snow budget Thursday and did not know where it stood after the previous ice storm.

He said he had just talked with public works director Randy Robertson, who said the city is fine with salt supplies.

Johnson said the county always allocates about $1.46 million for snow removal, but ran out after the ice storm last week.

"We have had a lot of snow this winter, which means we've spent most of the money allocated for snow removal," she said, adding the extra money is coming from the highways maintenance fund.  

"The money was exhausted from paying overtime because the crew members worked through the night to clear the snow for citizens," she said. "It was also used for road salt for snow removal operations."

With the latest snowstorm bringing a foot or more of snow to parts of Harford on Thursday, paying for ongoing salting and plowing operations is sure to be a continued challenge for Harford County and its municipalities.

Johnson was unsure how much more the snow could stretch the county.

"We still don't know what else Mother Nature has in store for us this winter," she said.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad