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Councilman wants to investigate Baltimore's snow removal response

City Councilman Bill Henry wants the Rawlings-Blake administration to give details about the order in which Baltimore side streets were cleared after the recent blizzard.

Henry will introduce a resolution during the 5 p.m. council meeting that asks the council to authorize a hearing on the matter as a way to improve the city's ability to respond to future snow storms. Nearly 30 inches was recorded in the Baltimore area, the region's largest single snow storm in the history books.

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"Many residents have been baffled by the decisions that clear some roads while leaving their own untouched for days," the resolution says.

"Limited plowing resources need to be used in an understandable and systematic manner so that residents can have some way of knowing when their streets may be cleared, why some streets have priority over others, and can set realistic expectations for when a particular street may be plowed."

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Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said last week it was impractical to make the mapping system available to the public, because of its rapidly changing nature. Officials explained that after primary routes were cleared, plows were deployed to neighborhood streets based on their proximity to schools, the need for emergency access and 311 calls.

The mayor pointed to a fire in Highlandtown on Jan. 25 that prompted an urgent redirection of equipment.

Henry said last week he searched online and quizzed transportation officials for information on their plan. He even turned to social media to crowdsource information on how plow drivers were being directed in the day after the historic snow fall.

The city used a team of inspectors to monitor street conditions as private contractors were called in to aide in the response, at a combined cost of roughly $40,000 an hour at the height of the clean up.

The total cost of the salt, gasoline and manpower is being tabulated. Baltimore spent about $14 million in each of the past two winters.

Henry acknowledged the hard work that went into the city's response, saying in the resolution that officials acted "quickly and forcefully."

"Baltimore truck drivers, police officers and firefighters worked literally 24-7 during the crisis, allowing the City to keep basic necessities flowing and to respond to every call for emergency services from its citizens," Henry wrote.

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