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We may never know the true cost of the storm
finance employees evaluating how last weeks winter storm hit their budgets
0116budgets1
A Georgia Department of Transporation truck removes snow and ice Tuesday from a stretch of Athens Highway. - photo by Tom Reed

Though Gainesville and Hall County officials don't have the final numbers, finance employees are starting to evaluate how last week's winter storm hit their budgets.

"It's too soon to look at the numbers, and I don't know that we've fully recovered," said Angela Sheppard, Gainesville's assistant city manager. "Hopefully we can get that next week."

The biggest costs will be gravel, salt and personnel, noted Melody Marlowe, the city's director of administrative services.

"I've seen a substantial amount of overtime, and we've depleted some of the supplies as far as salt and gravel," she said. "We'll have to reorder those to be ready for the next one, which will hopefully be next year."

Each department that helped with the ice cleanup will try to cover excess costs within their own budgets.

"We try to move some items around, which may be doable, but we have a council contingency that can cover catastrophic events," Marlowe said. "We plan for at least one winter storm each year, and we always expect snow and ice to a certain level. Whether it was enough to cover the type we've seen this week, we'll have to take a look at that."

Any cost estimates next week won't include long-term damages, such as cracks and potholes to roads that will be fixed in coming months, Marlowe noted.

The snowstorm, perhaps the worst in Hall since the blizzard of 1993, made for a long week for city, county and state road crews.

Crews worked long shifts since Jan. 9, spreading salt, sand and gravel over the ice and using blades to push dirty snow and cracked ice to the shoulders.

Georgia's Department of Transportation spent more than $1 million in Northeast Georgia alone on the cleanup, according to Teri Pope, spokeswoman for the DOT's Gainesville-based District 1.

The cost breakdown so far is $208,980 for personnel, $432,670 for equipment operation and $354,637 for materials, Pope said Wednesday.

Employees have spent 9,397.5 hours working on the roads, with the DOT attacking interstates first, then four-lane state routes, followed by two-lane state routes. Crews have used 2,137 tons of salt, 4,447 tons of stone and 11,425 pounds of calcium chloride.

Updated numbers were not available Friday, said Mohammed Arafa, a GDOT communication specialist.

New Hall County officials Jock Connell and Lisa Johnsa are ironing out the numbers as they settle into their positions.

"I don't have anything with numbers yet. The road department and public safety department are working on those with me," said Johnsa, interim finance director. "I also don't know how the county budgets for inclement weather, but we're working on that now. The snowstorm has made the transition awkward, but so far, so good, and we've been welcomed."

As the administration transition continues, interim county administrator Connell said he is relieved to see the departments complete their work according to plan.

"Every community encounters these storms from time to time, and one of the things that government does is respond," he said. "We had to respond to it, and we did for the safety of our citizens. Any costs incurred will certainly be honored."

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