Snow removal ‘taxing’ on city of Kent

Audrey Wagstaff

Scraping the layers of ice and snow off the car in the morning is only a portion of motorists’ battle during the winter months. The real challenge takes place after the car, or at least the windshield and rear window, is clean.

A driver may feel safe in his car, but once he hits the roadway, a whole debris-covered battlefield awaits. The debris ranges from snow, freezing rain and sleet to black ice.

As motorists venture out of the Kent, they pass over city, county, and state-maintained roads.

Jennifer Richmond, public information officer for the Ohio Department of Transportation District 4, said Kent, like other Ohio cities, is responsible for maintaining its own roadways and just state roads through the city. “We (ODOT) maintain interstates,” she said.

Within the city, the Central Maintenance Division oversees the snow removal. Kent is capable of sending out nine plow trucks. Essentially, these are dump trucks with 11-foot snow plows attached to the front.

City Maintenance Director Jack Hogue said the city uses its own trucks and workers.

“We have 24 workers and two supervisors,” he said. “Nineteen of them do all the snow plowing, which is part of taking care of the streets.”

Hogue said it’s quite expensive to run this type of operation with limited amounts of resources.

“It costs $33.84 per ton of salt, and we use about 200 tons of salt in the average snowfall (2-3 inches),” Hogue said. “So it can be quite expensive just for the salt,” not counting the man hours, overtime, equipment and fuel, he said. “We have to watch the man hours.”

Hogue said city taxes pay for these supplies and workers, and a budget is created for snow removal.

It’s becoming more difficult to fund snow removal operations because weather is so unpredictable and the amount of money coming in and going out varies.

The Ohio Department of Transportation District 4, which includes Ashtabula, Mahoning, Portage, Stark, Summit and Trumbull counties, owns 147 trucks with plows.

This district also employs 200 on-call workers, has 23 salt-holding facilities and maintains nearly 5,000 miles of highway.

Richmond said all of these supplies are a direct result of planning and budgeting for more than they think they need.

“We plan for the worst-case scenario,” she said. “We are continually refilling our bins so we don’t have a shortage of salt. We never use it and run out; we always ask for more and continuously stock our supply.”

In case of a major snow emergency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency does contribute to snow removal and may reimburse local governments.

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