The Canal Winchester Times

Winter takes pricey toll on communities' budgets

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With spring finally breaking through, area communities are determining just how much the long, cold winter cost them.

Communities throughout central Ohio suffered through salt shortages, round-the-clock road crew shifts during the numerous snowstorms and equipment failures due to the increased workload.

Officials in Canal Winchester and Madison Township both reported significant upticks in costs related to everything from fuel to overtime.

Madison Township Road Superintendent Dave Weaver said the township spent a total of $49,825 dealing with weather-related issues, with $22,100 of that spent on road salt and $18,000 going toward overtime.

"This was a significant increase over previous years, about a third more, I would guess, mainly in man-hours and the amount of salt purchased," he said.

The weather also kept the fire department busy. According to Madison Township Fire Chief Robert Bates, the department set a record during January's bitter cold for the number of weather-related incidents it responded to -- 545 overall.

"January was the busiest month we've ever seen in the fire department," he said. "I've never seen a month with more than 500 before, let alone 545.

"Groveport was the actual busiest area, with Madison Township next and then Canal Winchester last -- surprisingly, nothing in Obetz."

The incidents were a "mix of everything," Bates said.

"Some of it was an increase in car accidents due to weather and fire alarms related to heating or just normal alarms," he said. "One thing we expected was more broken sprinkler heads and things like that from when businesses lost heat, but that wasn't as much of an issue."

Bates said the department logged more than 1,000 hours of overtime for part-time employees and 385 hours of overtime for staff members.

Canal Winchester Division of Streets Manager Shawn Starcher said the city had "much higher than normal" spending on overtime and salt purchases. The city spent nearly $18,750 on overtime and $37,000 on salt this year, he said.

At the height of the winter season, Starcher explained to city council how his department had done everything it could to minimize the weather impact on residents, and even though everyone was frustrated with the lack of salt availability, he appreciated residents' patience and understanding about the work his crews had to do.

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