Long winter comes at a cost for city, county governments

Marion County dodged heavy snowfall and ice this past weekend, but winter?s frequent snows have caused power outages, school and organizational cancellations, headaches for homeowners and more work for city and county road crews.

Although budgets for the cities of Marion and Hillsboro and the county have fared well, other things have not.

?We try to pad the budget a little for the worst scenario for the winter,? said Marty Fred?rickson, Marion street supervisor. ?So we were basically prepared for it, I would say.?

But because of the moisture and constant freezing and thawing, more street asphalt has ?popped out? than years prior, Fredrickson said.

?The street damage is probably the worst thing that has come out of (the long winter),? Fredrickson said. ?We?ve got twice as many potholes this year than we?ve had in past winters.?

In addition to the moisture and temperatures, the heavy equipment used to clear roads also forms potholes.

?When you run over a black top road with any type of snow plow equipment, you?re going to gouge and it?s going to knock chunks of asphalt out,? said John Summerville, Marion County acting public works director. ?You?re going to get water puddling in there and it?s a bad situation.?

The extent of the damage won?t be known until spring.

?When all the frost gets out of the ground and things start drying out, we?ll be able to tell that we?ve got a mess,? Summerville said.

For the city of Hillsboro, keeping up the salt supply has been the biggest hassle, said Larry Paine, city administrator, particularly when the salt supply went to the state after the first ice storm.

?Our biggest problem we?ve had to overcome was being able to buy salt,? he said. ?We?ve had to be a little creative.?

Hillsboro has purchased salt directly from the state as well as through employee connections with people in the salt-selling business, Paine said.

In addition to making creative purchasing arrangements, job priorities have also been readjusted to fit Mother Nature?s schedule.

According Paine, the weather has caused delays for irrigation ditch maintenance.

In Marion, equipment maintenance and ?decent weather? jobs such as digging ditches or replacing sewer lines have been placed on the back-burner.

?The weather?s not been cooperative for those projects,? Fredrickson said.

But the street crews haven?t been sitting idle, especially during some 17 winter storms.

?When the snow comes, we?ve got a snow watch going on,? Paine said. ?For example, a couple weeks ago when we had the latest snow, we were out early enough that we were scraping and cleaning things up before traffic got on it.?

The ?snow watch? has helped Hillsboro lessen the overtime hours required of the street crew of three.

Overtime hours have also been accumulated for the city of Marion and county workers.

The city of Marion allows employees to receive comp-time off hours or overtime pay. The county compensates workers in comp-time off.

?We prepare ourselves for overtime and we watch the weather forecast and let the guys know we may be coming out at 2 a.m. for snow removal,? Fredrickson said. ?So they know when to go to bed early and they?re prepared to get up early and so forth.

?They?re used to overtime hours most of the time, especially if we pre-prepare them for that.?

Despite the extra hours, Fredrickson, Summerville and Paine all say their street crews do excellent work.

?They?d rather be home with their families, but they realize they?ve got a job to do,? Sum?merville said. ?We?ve got a real conscientious crew and they just know what?s expected of them and they?re glad to do it.?

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