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Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

City’s snow removal costs for season up to $317K and counting; more than triple a year ago

March 4, 2013

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The snow is not all that piled up.

City officials have their first glimpse at the costs associated with clearing the city of two late-February snow storms: $177,467 and still counting. And that's on top of a $140,000 snow-clearing tab run up this winter prior to the February double-whammy.

“It was a bad situation,” Mark Thiel, the city’s assistant director of public works, said of the two storms. “I went all the way back to 1900, and I couldn’t find where we had ever experienced two major storm events back-to-back like that. We’ve had bigger snow events, but not back to back.”

And here's a factoid: Someone with a City Hall calculator determined city crews pushed 77.6 million cubic feet of snow. Of that total, about 270,000 cubic feet actually had to be hauled away to the city’s storage lot at 11th and Haskell, with most of that snow coming from the downtown area and cul-de-sacs. The 270,000 cubic feet, according to the city, would fill the basketball court at Allen Fieldhouse to a depth of 57 feet.

All that snow removal comes at a cost. For the entire 2012-2013 winter season — remember, the season’s first snow was on Dec. 19 — the city has spent $317,512 clearing snow, which is more than triple the approximately $95,000 it spent last season.

But this year's spending is still well behind the most recent high-(frozen) water mark: 2009-2010, when the city spent $700,312 to remove 42.5 inches of snow.

This year’s totals are expected to grow because the city is still awaiting a bill from two private contractors — R.D. Johnson Excavating and King’s Construction — for work those companies did to assist city crews with snow removal. Those bills are expected to total about $70,000.

Thiel, however, said he’s pleased with how snow removal progressed in the city. He said city crews worked eight straight days of 12-hour shifts to tackle the snowfall. “The dedication of city employees has been tremendous,” Thiel said.

Private contractors were used to bring more equipment to the scene, particularly dump trucks used to haul snow piles off of downtown streets and cul-de-sacs.

Thiel estimated that after the snow stopped on Feb. 21, major arterial and collector streets were cleared within 24 hours. He estimates most of the entire city was cleared within 36 hours.

Thiel said the city’s stepped-up use of salt brine to pre-treat the streets helped speed up snow removal during the recent storms. The February storms marked the first time the city pre-treated all of the streets with the brine mixture.

Thiel said the brine helped prevent the snow — especially on residential streets — from becoming frozen to the pavement. That made the task of removing the snow easier and quicker.

“If we didn’t have the brine down, I don’t think we would have been able to have the residential streets cleared before the second storm arrived,” Thiel said.

The city used 34,000 gallons of brine to treat the 835 lane miles of streets in the city.

The new report from City Hall includes several facts and figures about the storms and the city’s snow removal operations. They include:

• By the city’s count, Lawrence received 17.6 inches of snowfall from Feb. 21 through Feb. 28 — 10.6 inches in the first storm and 7 inches in the second storm.

• For the entire season, the city has received 22.6 inches of snow. Lawrence’s historic average, according to the city, is about 21 inches for a season.

• The city has used 1,300 tons of sand and 2,258 tons of salt on the streets this winter season.

Comments

Currahee 1 year, 9 months ago

Thanks for keeping an eye on the city's finances. Good to have someone reporting things like this for government transparency. Despite my fiscal conservatism tirade by the city as of late, I think this is money well spent..

BOULEVARDWHEAT 1 year, 9 months ago

More than triple from a year when we had a negligible amount of snow? You don't say.

lionheart72661 1 year, 9 months ago

what is 3 times zero? We had 1 significant snowfall last year that lasted 1/2 a day.

jj14 1 year, 9 months ago

We had no snow last year....um - what did they spend money on last year??? Maybe pre-treating the roads?

George_Braziller 1 year, 9 months ago

It snowed once on either the 13th or 15th of February and was only an inch or two. I remember because I waited all winter for some snow because there was a photo I was wanting to take that required some snow on the ground. Snowed one day and was gone the next when the temps were in the mid-50s.

elliottaw 1 year, 9 months ago

What did the city have as a budget? Is this over the budgeted amount or under it, being as we have had two years (in the last 4) a lot worse than this year you would think it was under budget? This is after all an average snow fall for winter.

Joe Hyde 1 year, 9 months ago

Tax dollars well spent. Job well done!

RaynRavyn 1 year, 9 months ago

They are more than welcome to put the hauled off snow in my yard/garden, instead of their storage lot! Could certainly use it! :D

Kent Fisher 1 year, 9 months ago

City’s snow removal costs for season up to $317K and counting; more than triple a year ago

Although this headline is technically correct, it is sensationalized considering we had little to no snow last year. So of course it's tripled over last year. Chad, your story is incomplete...the more relevant headline and statistic would have related to the actual city budget for snow removal. What is that?

Chad Lawhorn 1 year, 9 months ago

I tried to get the budget number, but I didn't catch up with the guy who had it yesterday. When I get it, I'll pass it along in one form or another. But I don't think pointing out that is about 3 times more than last year is sensationalistic. You seem to assume, I'm pointing that out in a judgmental tone. I'm not. It stands to reason that the city would spend a lot more on snow removal this year than it did last year. I wrote the article mainly to satisfy people's curiosity about how much money it costs to remove a lot of snow. Thanks, Chad

brutus 1 year, 9 months ago

And what did they do with the excess? They have done a great job this year.

Chad Lawhorn 1 year, 9 months ago

They put the excess snow in a big pile at the city's public works yard near 11th and Haskell Streets. Thanks, Chad

scaramouchepart2 1 year, 9 months ago

At least they have come from, oh wait until it melts or let's put in the middle of the intersections like they did when I moved here. Chuck, all other staff heads invovled, you and your guys did a great job. Still I would like my neighborhood not to be the last plowed every time :).

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