City Hall

Snowstorm Consumed More than Half of City's 2012 Snow Budget

By Erica C. Barnett January 24, 2012

At the city council's transportation committee meeting this morning, city transportation and emergency-response staffers briefed council members on the city's response to last week's snow and ice storm.

Although they didn't give the city a letter grade, council members were mostly complimentary, commending staffers for mobilizing the snow response early (on January 14, days before the snow actually hit) and coordinating efforts between departments. Overall, the city sent out 30 snow plows, cleared 946 miles of roadway lanes, and poured more than 55,000 gallons of salt brine and more than 3,300 tons of rock salt on city streets.

The quick response did, however, come at a cost: About $1.2 million, or more than half of the city's total $2.2 million budget for snow and ice response. Of that total, about a third---$604,000---was spent on labor, $360,000 of that on overtime for Seattle Department of Transportation employees.

Moreover, a little more $300,000 of the $1.2 million went to one-time expenditures, like ice sensors on bridges, so the true number is closer to $1.9 million, leaving just $700,000 in the city budget to deal with snow. That means that if the city sees another big snowstorm in the next 11 months, the council will likely have to dip into emergency reserves to respond.

"I think we're budgeted for one more storm this year," transportation committee chair Tom Rasmussen said.

McGinn's spokesman, Aaron Pickus, noted that the overtime expenditure was part of a separate fund to pay for emergency response, not SDOT's regular budget.
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