Harsh winter weather has taken a toll on household budgets, but individuals and families aren't the only ones paying more. Cities have paid employees overtime to remove all the ice and snow and treat miles of roadways.
Elkhart mayor, Dick Moore, said Elkhart has doubled the amount it spends on winter weather-related services and it’s still early in the season.
“Thinking back over those times we've had some pretty mild winters, but this is really the exception” said Moore. For 12 years, Mayor Moore was head of the street commission. He said he has seen cold and snowy winters, but he can’t remember one this brutal.
According to Moore, the supply of road salt and sand has not run low just yet, but, overtime pay is nearly twice what it typically is.
Elkhart’s Emergency Management Dept. has been busy since November. Memos from the department to the city’s Board of Safety report “the month of November was a very busy month for bad weather. We had numerous calls for trees, wires, lights and numerous flooding.” Emergency Management spent 46 hours responding to storm related call outs alone.
Department memos indicate accident calls and “school events” were “much higher than usual in the months of December and January.
To recoup some of the expenses Elkhart submitted a request to the Indiana Dept. of Homeland Security FEMA reimbursement. Robin Wegner, grants coordinator for Elkhart, said the city may be eligible to receive funding for a period of particularly dangerous weather from January 5-7.
A copy of the “Arctic Blast” reimbursement request revealed that Elkhart spent a total of $247,026 in 48 hours. $48,406 of the total went to base pay for city employees working for the aviation, street, cemetery, B&G, public works and water, garage, police and fire departments.
$89,995 was spent on overtime play for city employees working to combat the storm.
Ever wonder how much it costs to clear the streets? Five trucks, running for 48 hours at $76.25 an hour racked up labor and maintenance cost of $18,300. Ten more trucks plowing and spreading salt, charging $65.00 per hour for 48 hours cost $31,200.
Elkhart used 25 bags of ice melt; each bag holds 1,250 pounds, for a total of $275. An additional $999 was spent on road salt, creating a total materials cost for the January 5-7 period of $1,274.
Other equipment and materials costs, totaling $64,028 and $43,797 respectively, made up the remainder of the “Arctic Blast” spending.
Mayor Moore said he isn’t sure whether the city will receive FEMA funds to defray the winter weather spending. If the city street and other departments need more money in the meantime, Moore said the Common Council can be petitioned.
Officials in South Bend have not calculated the total cost for the 2013-2014 winter seasons just yet. However, a representative from the mayor’s office told NewsCenter 16 that $400,000 was budgeted last year for snow and ice materials, an additional $1 million was budgeted for labor. The mayor’s office added that a similar budget was likely adopted this year with some wiggle room for overages.