Archive for Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Costs to remove snow from city and county roads near $500,000

February 11, 2014


More than just the snow has been piling up. City and county officials now estimate that they've spent about $470,000 to clear streets and roads following last week's 14-inch snowstorm.

"It is always a bit of an eye-opening number," said Mark Thiel, the city's assistant director of public works. "It does take a lot of resources."

To clear Lawrence streets and city parking lots after the most recent storm, the city spent an estimated $350,000, Thiel said. At the county level, costs were $118,798, according to Keith Browning, the county's director of public works.

The 14-inch snow is one of the larger single-day snowfalls in the city's history. The large amount of snow complicated efforts, Thiel said, but not because it was overly difficult to push.

"Pushing 14 inches of snow isn't that much more difficult than pushing 10 inches," Thiel said. "The biggest issue is where do you put the snow? That is a lot of snow to push on the side of the road."

Thiel said city crews did take the unusual step of hauling off the piles of snow at most of the major intersections in town. The snow was hauled to public works yards in east Lawrence and west Lawrence, and added to the city's costs by increasing the amount of staff hours, fuel costs and other equipment expenses.

"When you start getting piles of snow four to five feet high, it starts to limit visibility at those intersections," Thiel said. "You also have to worry about what you would do if it snowed again before those piles of snow melted."

The recent snowfall brings the city's total amount spent on snow removal this winter season to about $890,000. Since late November, city crews have responded to nine snow or ice events that have stretched over 11 days.

The city doesn't have a specific amount of money in its 2014 budget for snow removal. Instead, the city just pulls from the approximately $4 million fund that is set aside for routine street maintenance.

"When I spend $700,000 on snow removal, that basically is $700,000 I can't spend on street maintenance later this year," Thiel said.

With this most recent storm, the city has had about 25 inches of snow since late November. While that is above the city's historical average of about 21 inches per winter season, it hasn't been a particularly tough winter for the city to deal with compared with recent years, Thiel said. The city in the 2012-2013 winter season had 29 inches of snow. That season included a 10-inch snow and a 7-inch snow in back-to-back weeks, which was one of the more challenging snow removal operations in recent years, Thiel said.

This year's season, thus far, also has been milder than 2010-2011, when the city had 33 inches of snow; 2009-2010 with 42 inches of snow; and 2007-2008 with 33 inches.

But if recent history is any indication, we're likely not done yet with the snow. According to the city's records, five of the last six winter seasons have included snow in March.

— Journal-World reporter Peter Hancock contributed to this report.


Phil Minkin 4 years, 2 months ago

For a snowstorm of this size and duration, I think the city did an admirable job.

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