Saturday, December 28, 2002

White Christmas brings big price tag

The Associated Press

A snowstorm that gave Ohio a white Christmas this week also brought cash-strapped towns and counties a hefty price tag for the cleanup.

Hundreds of workers were called in on overtime to plow roads and spread salt. Allen County in northwest Ohio has spent more money in the last two months cleaning up snow than it did all of last winter.

The county spent $19,687 of overtime on top of holiday pay for snowplow drivers, said county engineer Wayne Gerdeman.

The snowstorm that began on Wednesday dumped anywhere from 4 to 10 inches across northern Ohio. Areas near Cleveland saw more than a foot of snow.

Some city officials are hoping any more snow holds off until next year when a new budget year also starts.

"Just a few more days, that's all we need," said Howard Elstro, director of public works in Lima.

The city spent $16,000 on overtime, salt, fuel and other expenses cleaning up snow this week. Four to six drivers were out at all times trying to clear roads, he said. They used 6,000 tons of salt.

"It's more expensive on a holiday because of the cost involved in the personnel," Mr. Elstro said.

Still, some say it was money well spent. "I would have paid them five times as much to come in," said Hussein Abounaaj, commissioner of streets, bridges and harbor in Toledo. "We've made a good dent in it."

Lucas County spent about $33,000 in overtime costs cleaning 300 miles of roadway. The county will transfer some money from other funds to cover snow-removal expenses, said Keith Earley, county engineer.

Bowling Green expects an overtime bill of about $5,000 for the cleanup.

" The snow cleanup costs just added to the money woes in Lorain near Cleveland. The city has a $2.4 million deficit and had to spend an estimated $8,000 on overtime and $20,000 on road salt.

"It's almost a person's salary," Mayor Craig Foltin said Friday. "But it's not a back-breaker."

He said the biggest hurdle was finding employees willing to come in Christmas Eve. "A lot of people weren't answering the call," Mr. Foltin said. "They don't want to be plowing snow at three in the morning on Christmas Eve."

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