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Where (when) will all the snow go? Winter woes melt city overtime budget

by Sue Botos

Rocky River

During this seemingly endless winter, the Rocky River service department can probably relate to what Gilda Radner’s character Roseanne Roseannadanna used to say on “Saturday Night Live.” “It’s always something. If it isn’t one thing it’s another.”

Last season, a relatively mild winter left the city with an abundance of salt. This year, workers and city officials are scrambling to find places to stash growing piles of snow, as well as tend to other fallout from the weather.

“We’ve seen both ends of the spectrum,” said Mayor Pam Bobst at City Council’s last legislative session. She said that 14 “12-hour” storms have already taxed the city service department’s $65,000 overtime budget for 2014 to the tune of $47,000. Bobst referred to the fact that a plow driver can work for 12 hours straight, and then must have time off. She said workers from the street and sewer departments have pitched in to plow.

A Feb. 5 blast of snow alone cost the city $4,000 in overtime, partially because trash pickup was canceled after collection scooters couldn’t navigate snow-clogged driveways, and refuse workers were needed to man the plows. Refuse for those residents was then gathered the following Saturday.

Noting piles of snow that have made some sidewalks impassable, Bobst said that the city does have a “bombardier,” or mini plow, which clears walks on major thoroughfares; but the heavy, deep snow has been no match for it. Private companies, hired by businesses to clear parking lots, contribute to the problem by pushing snow back onto the sidewalks.

“We don’t want to fight. They’re (business owners) just as frustrated as we are. We’re doing all we can, but there is a lot of snow out there,” Bobst said.

Bobst noted that plows have been on the streets more frequently in an effort to keep them as clear as possible due to the salt shortage, which has left communities with reduced supplies of ice melter. She said that 23 tons was delivered on Feb. 7, bringing the total available to 150 tons. Another order for 1,200 tons was placed last week, bringing the city to the maximum amount contracted. Contrary to some reports, Bobst stressed that at no time has the city been completely out of salt.

The amount spent on blast furnace slag, which is being used to supplement the salt supply, plus costs for additional maintenance to trucks, is being tallied. Bobst hopes that the city will receive some damage payments. Law Director Andy Bemer said that a number of cities under contract with Morton are preparing to take legal action against the salt supplier for breach of contract for not supplying the promised amounts of salt on time.

The streets department has also been working around the clock, according to Bobst, patching holes. She reported that 13 active “water holes” are being repaired by the Cleveland Division of Water, but the city is responsible for fixing the streets.

When the weather finally does break, there will be no relief for safety and service workers as they turn their eyes to the ice-clogged Rocky River. In January, residents of the Yacht Club Basin were evacuated when a brief warm-up caused flooding on South Island Drive. “When we’re not watching the snow, we’re watching the river,” Bobst said.

 

 

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