DELMARVA (WBOC) - Wicomico County's snow removal budget is dwindling and if Mother Nature does not cooperate, the county is in danger of going over budget for the winter season.
If the county does have to spend too much this winter on plowing and salting the roads, some other projects slated for the spring could be pushed to the back burner.
"There's some pavement damage that has happened as a result of the freezing and thawing so we would certainly have to pull a few roads off the paving schedule we have planned for the spring," said Lee Beauchamp, the public works director for Wicomico County.
This winter the county had set aside about $55,000 in overtime pay for the road crew members who are driving the plows and removing snow. As of Feb. 12, there was around $8,000 left in that budget. There was another $100,000 budgeted for salt and supplies for the winter months. As it stands, there is roughly $10,000 left. The county did recently receive a new shipment of salt. Over or under budget, the public work director said the snow will be removed. There just needs to be a little patience.
"We've got 700 miles of roads to maintain with about 45 pieces of equipment so it can take some time especially when the snow piles up. And we really don't plow some of the back roads until we get over 3 inches of snow just to prevent damage on them," said Beauchamp.
Delaware has almost 14,000 lane miles statewide. DelDOT is responsible for 90 percent of that. The department has spent almost $10 million this year on plowing, salting, etc. That's more than 2012 and 2013's spending combined.
But it's still less than DelDOT spent overall both in 2010 and 2011. That money comes out of the department's more than $100-million operating budget.
"So, there is no storm budget account that will go dry. That's one of the nice things about being a statewide DOT," said Jim Westhoff, a spokesman for DelDOT. "If we get into the range of $18-20 million, we might have to make adjustments to what we do the rest of the year. For example, we might only be able to cut the grass along the ditches once, instead of twice."
DelDOT had used more than 65,000 tons of salt through Feb. 7. And its staff had worked a combined 8,500 hours of OT to help clear Delaware roads.
In Kent County, the county itself does not have a specific snow removal budget, because DelDOT handles basically everything. The city of Dover doesn't have a ton to deal with either. It has spent around $17,000 so far this year. City officials say that's just a little more than average.
In Dorchester County, officials say they still have plenty of money left in their snow budget going into Wednesday's storm. Officials tell WBOC that the county uses sand, not salt, on roads. The county has their own quarry where they can dig up and dry sand, saving them money.
In Cambridge, the city cannot use sand, only salt in order to not block up the storm water drainage system. Public works director Odie Wheeler says after this storm he expects the remaining 100 tons of salt to have been spread. But he says they are already preparing to get more salt for any future storms.
"At Monday night's council meeting, the council approved emergency funding so that we can order more salt and get more salt in case we have more weather events in the next month or so." said Wheeler. He expects that a supply of 100 tons more salt could arrive by next week.
Wheeler and his crews started attaching plows to trucks Tuesday morning and loading salt, as well as preparing chainsaws. He is concerned the heavier snow could bring down several trees over the next 24 hours. Cambridge will also be implementing an emergency snow plan Wednesday night at 9 PM, asking residents to not park cars on any marked emergency snow routes.
Talbot County has only spent between $3000 and $4000 so far. And that has been only on overtime for workers. County officials say no money has been spent on additional salt or outside contractors so far this year.
Caroline County reports that they have a budget of $12,000 to cover snow, fallen trees, and sign damage. But officials did not know how much has been spent so far on overtime. Brian North, with the Caroline County Roads Division, says the county has a stockpile of sand and salt mix and has only spent $100 on getting additional supply from the State Highway Administration.
Queen Anne's County has spent the most going into this storm with many of this year's weather hitting the northern parts of the peninsula the hardest. Out of a $50,000 dollar budget for overtime for the entire year, $31,000 has been spent so far. The storms have also depleted the county's salt stockpile, forcing it to buy an extra $44,000 of salt, bringing the grand total of snow removal to $75,000 dollar so far in the county.