Snow removal costs pile up
The North Carolina Department of Transportation has been
logging miles and running up maintenance costs in the ongoing battle against icy
District engineer Michael Poe said materials and equipment were still available, even if the cost of clearing roads was higher than usual.
"We're starting to hear rumors about our current supplies maybe getting a little slow," Poe said. Ironically, it's bad weather elsewhere that is slowing down supplies of salt used to help melt snow from the pavement.
Poe said rain-swollen rivers were preventing ships and barges carrying snow from making their normal routes, which in turn meant those loads may be delayed in reaching NCDOT distribution points.
"We're in pretty good shape right now," Poe said. "We had a similar problem in Avery County, but we were able to shift some over from other points. We could probably do the same thing for Watauga if we had to."
Poe said there was no specific local budget for maintaining snow-covered roads. Instead, the costs are spread statewide. However, Poe estimates this year's costs will far exceed last year's.
He said the measurable cost so far this year for snow removal has been just over $2 million. Last year, the entire winter's snow-removal costs were $1.5 million.
"It's been pretty rough this year," Poe said. "We pretty much have to take each storm as it comes."
The local NCDOT garage has 17 plow trucks and four motor graders, as well as 11 trucks and four additional motor graders available for temporary contract work. "It really depends on the weather," Poe said. "We don't use contractors any more than we have to, but they're an invaluable resource when we need them."
Blake Brown, Boone public works director, said the town had used 1,200 tons of salt so far, at a cost of $117,000. The town had to find a new supplier because its vendor ran out of salt and the price went up about 20 percent. The town has also purchased 500 tons of slag at a cost of $10,500.
Brown said his department would probably be about $80,000 over budget for this year due to overtime, materials, and equipment repairs.
"This has been a winter to remember," Brown said. "The guys have had five days off since Dec. 13, so they're a little tired."