Snow expense

Published 10:27 pm Thursday, February 6, 2014

Last week’s snowstorm cost the city about $288,000, according to a breakdown of expenses for the Department of Public Works provided by city spokeswoman Diana Klink.

Labor was the largest expense, at $103,000. Next came materials, at $79,000, then equipment, $91,000, while miscellaneous costs totaled $15,000.

L.J. Hansen, assistant director with the Public Works Department, said the snow relief effort involved 135 employees; crews worked two 12-hour shifts.

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Hansen’s breakdown described 82 roadway, 11 fleet, 11 traffic and 31 sanitation employees.

Before the snow started falling in earnest overnight on Jan. 28-29, and Suffolk awoke Wednesday morning to six to 10 inches of it, Hansen said, his department had pretreated roadways with 1,000 gallons of brine.

Also distributed around the city were 578 tons of salt, 271 tons of sand, and 1,329 tons of abrasive mix.

The effort — before and after the snow fell — involved 23 dump trucks with snow plows on the front, and 21 of those also with spreaders on the back, as well as 10 pickups.

To replenish supplies in readiness for the next winter storm, Hansen said, the city has ordered 2,600 tons of salt and 4,800 tons of sand.

“We have not received all the materials at this point,” he said on Wednesday, adding he didn’t think there was any shortage.

“We consider ourselves to be prepared for any future events. There’s always (the possibility of) some event that’s catastrophic, but we do feel we are ready.”

In an email on Wednesday, Klink stated that she was awaiting information from other departments about their costs.

Most City Council members on Wednesday praised the snow response; none were critical. “We might not have pleased everybody and got everybody’s little street,” but city staff “got out there and did a phenomenal job,” Councilman Roger Fawcett said. Councilman Charles Parr said: “I had to go out in it, and I tell you the roads were clean. We are fortunate, because the city roads were nice.”

Mayor Linda T. Johnson called Public Works Director Eric Nielsen to the front of the meeting and said his staff “did an absolutely phenomenal, drop-dead job.”

She recited a text she said she received: “I came home tonight and my road is clear. What a gift.”

“That was just one of them,” the mayor said. “They went on and on.”

Some commenters on the Suffolk News-Herald website, however, disagreed, noting over the weekend that there were streets throughout the city that were yet to be plowed.

Klink stated in an email that there were a variety of situations that could have caused plows to be unable to navigate residential streets — including cars parked along the sides of those roads and cul-de-sacs that would have made turning around impossible for the plows.