Baltimore County Now
— January Blizzard Most Costly in County History
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced that in the wake of the heaviest – and most costly – single snowstorm in the County’s history, crews and equipment are ready to tackle tonight’s forecasted snow, and salt supplies are replenished with final deliveries taking place today. The Kamenetz administration increased salt storage capacity by 20,000 tons this year, bringing the total to 80,000 tons of salt stored in 15 salt barns around the County.
The Baltimore County Bureau of Highways crews and contractors will be working around the clock tonight, and for as long as is needed to clear roads for safe travel.
Winter Storm Jonas Was the Costliest Single Snowstorm in County’s History
January’s blizzard brought not just the highest snow accumulations on record, it also topped the charts in terms of the cost of snow removal for a single storm in Baltimore County history. The County has tallied the total storm expenses at $9.4 million dollars. This eclipses the 2010 twin snowstorms, which cost $4 million and $7 million individually.
It costs approximately $54,000 per hour to plow snow from Baltimore County’s 8,742 County-maintained roads and approximately $109,000 per hour to spread salt.
This storm has exceeded the $6 million “placeholder” figure the County listed in the Fiscal Year 2016 operating budget for storm operations. The County routinely transfers funds into this budget line item from undesignated surplus when needed to cover additional costs for snow removal.
“It is important to keep in mind that this $6 million figure is simply a starting point,” said Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. “We will allocate whatever is needed to ensure public safety for the remainder of the winter. Whatever Mother Nature throws at us, we will handle.”
County Reviewing Communications Protocols for Major Storms
While feedback from County residents has been overwhelmingly positive regarding the job that Baltimore County crews did in removing this historic snowfall, one concern that did arise was the need to increase capacity for customer service calls during storm emergencies. Kamenetz said he has tasked his key staffers with recommending technical and other improvements to enhance the County’s customer service in times of emergency. He hopes to have those recommendations within the next month.
County Provides Storm Updates on Website and Social Media
Residents and the travelling public can get updated information about Baltimore County’s snow removal operations and road conditions on the County website and on Twitter.
The County website provides the latest on road conditions, current plowing operations, winter storm tips and more at the Snowfighter web page at baltimorecountymd.gov/snowfighter, which also includes Twitter updates from Baltimore County Emergency Management. These updates are also available on Twitter by using our Twitter handle, @bacoemergency.
The County Snowfighter web feature provides a link to live traffic camera feeds from the Maryland Department of Transportation’s Coordinated Highways Action Response Team (CHART). It also offers a link to the County’s list of road closures, which provides details on roads that are currently closed due to repairs, accidents, weather or other hazards. This list is updated frequently, so we recommend that people check back often for the latest status. State roads and interstates are not included. For information on state roads, please see the Maryland Department of Transportation’s travel advisories and road closures web page at http://www.chart.md.gov/TravInfo/Default.aspx.
Director, Office of Budget and Finance
Yesterday, the Baltimore County Council unanimously passed County Executive Kamenetz’s budget for Fiscal Year 15 with only minor changes. The County’s General Fund Operating Budget, subject to spending affordability, for FY 2015 is $1.75 billion, an increase of only 3.85% above the previous year. When including special funds, the total operating budget is $2.9 billion.
The budget holds the line on taxes and maintains our top bond rating.
No increase in property tax rate – 26th year in a row
No increase in income tax rate – 22nd year in a row
Maintains Triple AAA bond rating – one of only 38 counties in the nation
You may view details of the budget on the County web site. Here’s a quick overview of the total operating budget:
Baltimore County Chief of Highways
Everybody’s curious about the price tag. How much does it cost to plow the roads and keep them open every winter?
In Baltimore County, when there’s a hint of snow – when the weather person says there’s a chance for precip tomorrow – we, in the Bureau of Highways, Department of Public Works, begin looking very carefully at the bottom line. Because as soon as the word goes out that we’ve got snow duty – that we’re on the clock – we’re on the meter too.
This year we expect that plowing snow (that’s with a staff of 400 employees manning three hundred trucks working from 11 shops) will cost more than $37,000 per hour. And when we put down salt, that price goes up to $108,000 per hour. That’s because salt costs more than $50 a ton and we stock about 50,000 tons at 14 locations across the county.
Sunday’s storm cost the County $1.4 million. We’re still tabulating the expenses related yesterday’s snow and will post the total shortly.
It’s expensive, of course, but the total cost to keep the streets clear and safe varies wildly from year to year. Last year was an economical year for us. Baltimore County spent a little under $4 million to call out crews, to salt and to plow for 13 storms – many of them just dustings. But “Snowmageddon” back in 2010 was more than five times as expensive. The bills came to $20 million. Snow accumulation that winter was estimated at seven feet!
For a complete picture, take a look at our website for a listing of storm costs since Fiscal Year 2001.
During the past 13 years the cost has gone from a low of $2 million (when accumulation was a mere six inches in 2002) to the colossal winter four years ago. The average is about $7 million. But whatever the cost, you can rest assured that Baltimore County's Highway crews will give it our all to keep the streets open this year.