Rocky Fork Enterprise

Winter's toll

Weather costing city overtime; G-J mulls 'blizzard bags'

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The cost of overtime has been accumulating like snow and ice in Gahanna this winter.

City service director Dottie Franey said Gahanna has spent $80,793 in overtime for 20 winter weather events from Nov. 1, 2013  through Feb. 6.

The city also has purchased 2,090 tons of rock salt for $101,789 and 10,000 gallons of brine for $1,500.

City finance director Jennifer Teal said overtime and material costs associated with extreme winter weather typically are covered by the city's street and state highway funds, which are funded by the city's share of motor vehicle registrations and gasoline tax.

"In years where the needs of these funds exceed their resources, the city's general fund has been used to make up the difference," Teal said. "As the year progresses, we will assess whether or not the street and state highway funds require additional resources and, if so, recommend supplemental appropriations from the unencumbered balance of the general fund for this purpose."

During the latest storm, beginning at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 4, through 4 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 6, 10.9 inches of snow was reported from Port Columbus International Airport.

Gahanna crews spent a total of 240.4 hours of overtime at a cost of $12,932. About 120 tons of salt was used at a cost of $5,811, as well as 4,000 gallons of brine at a cost of $600. In addition, the city used 2,000 gallons of calcium chloride with boost costing $2,380.

As of Feb. 7, Gahanna had 100 tons of salt on hand.

Columbus service director Tracie Davies, Gahanna's former deputy service director, recently contacted the city to offer salt to help keep Gahanna's arterial streets and bridges safe.

"We recognize and are grateful for the personal connections and regional partnerships that have created an atmosphere of assistance in these difficult times," Franey said in a report to council.

She previously announced that the city has suspended salt applications on flat residential streets until supplies become stable. Residential streets, however, are being plowed.

Gahanna is continuing to salt arterial streets, bridges and intersections with slopes as needed.

The Gahanna-Jefferson Public School District has used seven calamity days as of Feb. 7. The state allows five per school year.

At the urging of Gov. John Kasich, however, a proposal before state lawmakers would allow school districts an additional four calamity days before requiring districts to make up days on Saturdays, over spring break or at the end of the school year.

Gahanna's makeup days are scheduled at the end of the school year.

Some Ohio school districts are using "blizzard bags," an online homework option that's allowed by the Ohio Department of Education to make up for up to three days.

Mallory Sribanditmongkol, the district's public-information officer, said the district hasn't officially implemented blizzard bags; however, many teachers have been sending extra assignments home with students.

"Based on the expected forecasts, we are exploring the idea of using blizzard bags," she said.

In addition to considering the safety of Gahanna streets for the district's buses, Superintendent Francis Scruci said, extremely cold temperatures are factored into the decision to delay or cancel classes. He said minus-10 degrees is his threshold because some students don't have proper outerwear.

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