After three days of closures, local government reopened Friday to begin assessing the full impact of the snow and ice storm on operations, all while handling a backlog of administrative work and requests for services from residents.
Public safety agencies reported no major increases in motor vehicle accidents and calls for service during the storm, thanks in the large part to the fact that residents heeded warnings and stayed off roads at the height of the storm Tuesday and Wednesday.
Hall County Fire Services spokesman Scott Cagle said there were 3,281 calls for service from early Tuesday morning to 1 p.m. Thursday, with 93 of those calls pertaining to accidents and wrecks. No deaths or major injuries were reported.
By comparison, Cagle said emergency dispatch had received more than 4,000 calls for service between Feb. 3 and 6 when no inclement weather occurred, with more than 100 of those calls reported as vehicle accidents.
Gainesville and Hall County fire and police personnel worked around the clock throughout the storm even as the snow and ice shuttered government facilities, businesses and schools.
“Although there were certain facilities shut down for the past three days, a large majority of government workers kept working through this storm,” Hall County spokeswoman Katie Crumley said.
Public safety personnel account for more than half of Gainesville and Hall County workers. But road maintenance crews, engineers, public works staff and others also contributed to local government’s response to the storm, often being reassigned to other departments, meaning the vast majority of government workers were putting in hours during the past few days.
“Whenever you have something as significant as this storm ... you do whatever you need to do,” said Hall County Administrator Randy Knighton.
Assistant County Administrator Marty Nix said officials were in the process of reviewing how much personnel expenses cost the county during the storm, but added that each department budgets for overtime wages in the event emergency situations occur.
After the all-hands-on-deck mentality of the past few days, Gainesville and Hall County officials were busy Friday reopening government and meeting increased demands for services that were sidelined during the storm.
Hall County reopened its parks, community centers and compactor sites Friday morning after shutting them down about noon Tuesday. Officials said they were seeing increased demand for administrative services, such as tag renewals at the tax commissioner’s office.
Gainesville also reopened its parks and community facilities Friday, giving stir-crazy residents a respite from days of being snowed in.
Because public works employees were out helping manage the city’s response to the storm, some projects will have to be rescheduled.
“We had to suspend garbage service for the last half of the week as well as other public works projects, such as street repair and sidewalk construction, which pushes completion dates back,” City Manager Kip Padgett said in an email. “Next week we will move everyone back to their normal schedule and resume addressing those issues.”
Gainesville Public Works Director David Dockery reported Friday that road crews had dispensed 45 truckloads of materials on city streets during the storm, equaling 245 bags of calcium chloride and 210 tons of winter sand.
Though Hall County court services were shuttered Thursday, only two jury trials were impacted and both resumed Friday morning without further delay.
At the Gainesville Municipal Court, 40 cases were rescheduled as a result of Thursday closures, with makeup dates set for Feb. 20 for defendant’s whose last name begins with A through G, and Feb. 27 for last names beginning with H through Z.
The Gainesville-Hall County Community Service Center will reopen today to provide its income tax return assistance program to residents. Meanwhile, the Senior Life Center and Meals on Wheels program remain closed, but are expected to resume sometime next week.
One of the bigger impacts to local government involved the canceling of council, commission and board meetings.
Gainesville rescheduled its council work session from Thursday to coincide with the regularly scheduled council meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. Meanwhile, the Retirement Board, Airport Advisory Board and Chattahoochee Golf Course Advisory Committee meetings were canceled and have not yet been rescheduled.
Hall County canceled its Board of Commissioners meeting set for Thursday, and rescheduled it for 6 p.m. next Thursday.
The U.S. Postal Service office on Green Street in Gainesville also reopened for business Friday after closing down Thursday.
Supervisor John Cunningham said customers had been flooding in all morning, and that his team was working extra hard to handle a backlog of mail that was unable to get out during a portion of the storm.
Despite a minor lull around lunchtime Friday, “I’m expecting it to pick back up heavy again,” Cunningham said.