Snow Removal Can be Costly for Counties

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City, county, and state road departments have been working to clear streets and highways after Wednesday's snow.

It's a necessary task, but for counties with a lot of roads to clear, it can become a costly one.

Howard County Highway Superintendent Janet Thomsen says they don't plow after dark for safety reasons. Since it snowed through the night, they got started bright and early on Thursday.

"We try to wait until the wind goes down otherwise we're backplowing the same roads again," says Thomsen.

Depending on the amount of snow, it can take thirteen road graders anywhere from 10-12 hours to hit every road in Howard County. That means needlessly plowing them can turn into wasted fuel and extra overtime hours.

"We haven't had a problem with the roads budget for the last several years, we've stayed within our budget," says Thomsen. "Granted, we haven't had any big snows for the last four years now."

But the Adams County Roads Department says mild winters can be costly in other ways.

"It's been such a dry year, we've continued to work all year, so our fuel budget itself is pretty well gone," says Dawn Miller, Adams County Highway Superintendent. "I had to shut down early just because we were working outside of our budget range for projects."

That means with a lot of storms, snow removal dollars disappear quickly. But plowing has to be done.

"With 863 miles of county road and a large portion of the population either in farming and ag or working elsewhere we get a lot of traffic on our county roads," says Thomsen.

"It is a big cost, but we'll just save somewhere else later because the roads have to be passable," says Miller.

Depending on the amount of snow that has fallen it can take county crews a few days to open all roads. Besides not plowing after dark, they're also limited by laws regarding the number of hours they can spend in a truck at one time.