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Snow storm cost Charlotte $1.6 million

WEDNESDAY_SNOW_08
John D. Simmons - jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com
Food delivery drivers and snow plows motor east on Prosperity Church Road towards Mallard Creek. Charlotte and the surrounding Piedmont area braced for heavy snow and other frozen precipitation Wednesday February 12, 2014.

Coping with February’s three-day snowstorm cost the city of Charlotte $1.6 million, on salt, brine, de-icing fluid and overtime, the city said Wednesday.

Despite the size of the storm – which dumped more than 6 inches of snow on Feb. 12 – the city said it expects various departments can absorb the costs and that it shouldn’t impact this spring’s budget planning for the upcoming year.

The biggest expense was $526,000 to treat roads from icing. The Charlotte Department of Transportation used 95,000 gallons of brine and 2,704 tons of salt.

City budget director Randy Harrington said CDOT’s annual budget has $150,000 for snow response, and the city also has a $1 million reserve fund that’s typically used for road resurfacing. That money – which comes from state gasoline taxes – can also be used for winter weather.

The next-biggest expense was for de-icing airplanes and helping 3,000 passengers who were stranded at Charlotte Douglas International. The airport spent $430,000 on the storm, according to the report.

Harrington said the airport budgets $300,000 annually for winter weather. It’s unclear how much of that money was already spent on de-icing airplanes during earlier storms.

The airport doesn’t receive general tax dollars from the city. If Charlotte Douglas has a shortfall, it could make up the gap from the fees it charges airlines.

The city’s engineering department spent $254,000 to hire contractors to clear sidewalks at “high-priority, city-maintained facilities.” Solid Waste Services spent $107,000 to haul away 2,002 tons of snow.

Other highlights:

• Charlotte Mecklenburg Utilities spent $86,000 to help with snow removal; $56,000 from the city manager’s office went to staff the 311 call center; $44,000 from the shared services department was used to help with snow removal; $33,000 was spent on police overtime and other expenses; $44,000 was allocated for the fire department; $19,000 was utilized for the Charlotte Area Transit System; and information technology support ran up $4,000 in storm-related expenses.

• Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police responded to 1,997 calls during the storm. The Charlotte Fire Department handled 2,014 calls.

One factor helping the city deal with the storm is that its budget outlook for the upcoming fiscal year is improving.

In January, the city was concerned about losing money from the countywide property re-evaluation. But the city now believes the impact of the revaluation won’t be significant. In addition, sales tax revenues are higher than first projected.

That “relieves pressure (from the storm),” budget director Randy Harrington said.

Harrington said the city typically doesn’t do a detailed look at the financial impact of winter storms. Charlotte doesn’t have a report on January’s much-smaller storm.

In addition, Wednesday’s report doesn’t include what other governments spent, including the N.C. Department of Transportation, which treated interstates.

The city’s snow expenses for the airport, CATS and utilities departments – $535,000 – are included in three different “enterprise funds” that aren’t part of the city’s general fund budget.

The other expenses – $1.068 million – are part of the general fund, which is mostly funded by property taxes. The general fund is about $560 million.

Harrison: 704-358-5160
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