Montgomery County spent almost $11 million to remove 6.4 inches of snow during the 2012-2013 winter, almost a third of the $38.6 million it spent for storm cleanup in fiscal 2013.
The snow and ice cleanups cost about $8.1 million more than the county budgeted.
In a memo to the County Council, Deputy Council Administrator Glenn Orlin wrote the county's Department of Transportation and the Department of General Services looking for an additional $15.1 million for snow removal and storm cleanup for fiscal 2013, which would make total storm costs $38.6 million.
Orlin said the bulk of those costs were incurred during Hurricane Sandy in fall 2012 and in the aftermath of the derecho storm last summer. The derecho cost the county about $8 million, and Hurricane Sandy cost slightly more than $3 million. Some of the funding for those storms is expected to be reimbursed by the federal and state governments because costs exceeded $2.3 million.
During the winter, 6.4 inches of snow fell on the county over 12 snow and ice storms. Of the 12 times forecasters predicted snow storms, plows were used twice, according to Keith Compton, chief for the division of highway services in DOT.
One of the biggest costs was overtime for workers. The county used about $1 million in overtime for employees who aided with snow removal, though there was no overtime budgeted for snow removal, according to county records.
Compton said department officials, after examining reports from the National Weather Service, decide how many workers should be on call and in county depots ready to clear roads of snow and salt thoroughfares in case of ice.
"It's easy at this point to look back and say, 'you know what, you guys have spent too much money [on snow removal preparations,]' " he said. "But when you're in the instant moment, and when the forecast may be calling for one to two inches of snow, and you wind up getting five or six, you have to be ready."
Overtime hours kick in after normal work hours stop, and keeping residents safe is more important to the department than overtime costs, Compton said.
"If you're short-handed or you don't pre-treat [roads], accidents happen," he said. "Folks are injured and then you're receiving a different type of criticism."