Bills, bills, bills: Elkhart County calculating snowstorm's cost

Elkhart County officials say this past weekend's snowstorm is "going to be expensive."

Posted on Jan. 7, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.

ELKHART — Towing services to rescue plows stuck in the snow, overtime pay for snow removal crews, extra contractors to clear subdivision roads, equipment maintenance — it's all adding up.

Elkhart County is tallying expenses related to this past weekend's storm, which dumped several inches of snow on central and northern Indiana. The total has not been calculated yet, but one thing is clear.

“This is going to be an expensive storm,” county commissioner Mike Yoder said.

Yoder and other local leaders hope some of the expenses can be recouped via federal funding that potentially may be made available thanks to Gov. Mike Pence's declaration of a state of emergency in Elkhart County and 28 other Indiana counties.

Arvis Dawson, assistant to Elkhart Mayor Dick Moore, said city officials will probably start tabulating the cost of dealing with the cold and snow next week. The storm necessitated extra spending in gas and manpower to operate the plows the swept streets clear of snow, according to Dawson.

Like the city of Elkhart, the county commissioners hired contractors to help a team of 25 highway workers plow snow in unincorporated parts of the county. The brutal winter weather took a toll on the county's trucks and plowing equipment, Yoder said.

Yoder expects the county's final cost to be “tens of thousands of dollars but not millions.” He said the storm's financial impact could affect how much the county has on hand to spend on road paving this summer. But, Yoder said, removing snow from the roads quickly and efficiently is worth the expense.

“It costs about $100,000 to pave a mile of road, so if we pave one less mile of road and we're able to get the roads cleared and people back to work a day early, that just seems to be a good tradeoff,” Yoder said.

It costs roughly $55,000 for snow removal crews to plow every numbered county road in one trip, according to Yoder. That estimate generally includes the cost of fuel, labor and equipment maintenance, he said.

Elkhart County Emergency Management director Jennifer Tobey and deputy director Michael Pennington plan to file an application with the Indiana Department of Homeland Security that will be submitted for federal assistance. Federal funding is not guaranteed to flow into Elkhart County, but Pennington said it could help pay for damages and costs that were incurred for public assistance. The assistance could also help pay for other costs that fell outside normal operations, like extra labor and fuel used for plowing snow.

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