Harford's snow removal budget is at least $1.8 million in the hole

County and municipal officials in Harford County say their snow removal budgets have been catapulted farther into the red because of handling multiple snow and ice events throughout the winter of 2013-2014, including the latest storms the past two weeks.

The county government's snow budget is at least $1.8 million in the hole, spokesman Sherrie Johnson said Wednesday.

Johnson said Department of Public Works officials are working to find money within their highways budget to cover the extra costs.

Johnson said the department has enough money to get through the end of the fiscal year on June 30, although she noted the snow removal costs could affect projects such as maintaining roads and drainage ditches as well as trimming trees.

"DPW would have to prioritize the list of projects," she wrote in an email. "Fixing the worst maintenance problems and leaving the minor problems to be repaired at a later date. Those projects could be delayed until July."

"We're about two to three times our [snow removal] budget right now," Matt Lapinsky, the City of Aberdeen's public works director, said Thursday.

Lapinsky did not have exact cost figures, and he noted the "two to three times" figure does not include the 1,400 tons of road salt he ordered to replenish the city's supplies or the overtime public works crews have put in to clear streets.

Lapinsky and his colleagues in neighboring communities are still watching weather reports, despite the arrival of spring on Thursday.

There is a 40 percent chance of rain and snow on Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service's website.

"Hopefully everything's over and it's just a matter of replenishing our stock for next year," he said, laughing. "That would be a dream come true if it was over."

Salt supplies dwindle

Lapinsky said he has received about 60 to 70 tons of the 1,400 tons of salt he ordered, and that, combined with what is still in stock, should cover the city's needs if another serious storm should occur.

Lapinsky said he attended a meeting of the Maryland Municipal Public Works Officials Association Thursday, and fellow public works directors he spoke to are also struggling to fill salt orders.

He said he suspected salt suppliers have been struggling to meet the increased demand.

"They get out what they can, and we'll wait patiently," he said.

Lapinsky said it would be up to Aberdeen's mayor and City Council to provide guidance on how public works projects should be prioritized after the winter.

"It's going to be up to the mayor and council," he said. "Once we get all the numbers together, we'll present those to them."

Bel Air Town Administrator James Fielder Jr. estimated the town has exceeded its snow removal budget by $15,000 to $20,000 as of Thursday.

Fielder added, however, that the overage is "manageable."

"We have an excellent staff doing a very good job with it," he said.

The City of Havre de Grace has spent about $41,000 on its snow removal materials, after Monday's storm. The city had originally budgeted $27,500 as it usually does, the top DPW official noted.

"Nobody budgets for the kind of year we have had," Public Works director Larry Parks said.

The city also totaled about 900 overtime hours. Parks noted the city has gone several years without running over its snow budget.

Havre de Grace also only has about 15 tons of salt left; it originally bought 630 tons.

Parks said he had ordered another 100 tons, but that was put on hold as salt contractors work to fill orders for jurisdictions around the region.

"I don't think that has ever happened before," he said.

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