December 21, 2014

Elyria
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Severe winter costly for Lorain County, municipalities

A stop sign is buried by snow on Greenview Drive in Elyria on Feb. 19. CHRONICLE FILE PHOTOS

A stop sign is buried by snow on Greenview Drive in Elyria on Feb. 19. CHRONICLE FILE PHOTOS

The severe winter chilled Lorain County and local budgets.

Through Thursday, the area had nearly 80 inches of snowfall, according to Brian Mitchell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Cleveland office. The average winter snowfall — based on 30-year totals — is about 68 inches through Thursday. The 2012-13 winter total was 52 inches.

Digging out meant digging deeper into snow budgets, which are mostly paid for with money from county license plate fees and the state gas tax. Costs were primarily for road salt, overtime and pothole patching. The county had a 27 percent hike over last year.

While the last two winters were mild, the county spent $760,292 in 2010-11. However, Bob Klaiber, deputy county engineer, said road salt costs inflated that season’s total. The per-ton cost of salt in 2010-11 was $46.70 compared with $34.32 in 2013-14.

“Without it being down, the impact could’ve been worse,” Klaiber said.

Nonetheless, Klaiber said the high cost means the county has less money for road improvements that involve matching state and federal grants. Elyria may also have less road improvements. Costs increased $244,000 from 2012-13, a 39 percent hike.

Elyria Mayor Holly Brinda said it costs between $60,000 and $80,000 to resurface a road.

Elyria’s resurfacing budget is just $24,000 this year, down from $738,000 last year.

“Every dollar counts,” Brinda said. “This has been a very difficult winter.”

In Lorain, costs were up $358,833, a 185 percent increase from the previous winter. Mayor Chase Ritenauer said road improvements won’t be affected because they come out of the street levy fund rather than from the Streets Department.

However, there may be less money for equipment such as snow plow upgrades or pothole patching materials.

“We’re going to be very conservative because of how harsh the winter was,” Ritenauer said.

Cash-strapped Sheffield Lake, where costs increased $25,847, a 37 percent hike over 2012-13, will also budget conservatively, according to Mayor Dennis Bring. He said road improvements may have to be cut back slightly.

“Taking that much out right at the beginning of the year kind of hurts,” he said.

A trio of North Ridgeville snow plows works on Center Ridge Road on March 12. The city’s snow-removal costs for the winter were more than $130,000 than last year’s.

A trio of North Ridgeville snow plows works on Center Ridge Road on March 12. The city’s snow-removal costs for the winter were more than $130,000 than last year’s.

However, Bring said costs could’ve been higher if the city hadn’t elected to not salt side streets this winter. A new snow days parking ban made plowing easier and reduced overtime.

Neighboring Sheffield used 1,450 tons of salt this winter, an 81 percent increase over the 800 tons used in 2012-13. State taxpayers pay for 1,400 tons of salt for Sheffield each winter under a deal worked out in 2008 with the Ohio Department of Transportation, Mayor John Hunter said.

In exchange for the salt, Sheffield, rather than the Ohio Department of Transportation, plows state routes 254, 301 and 611. Hunter, who took office in 2008, said the village had previously been plowing the roads for the state without compensation.

While salt costs can change annually, Hunter said salt-cost savings are higher than the extra equipment, fuel and overtime costs for the extra plowing. “We would be plowing those (routes) to get to our side streets anyway,” he said.

Overall costs in Sheffield increased 49 percent from $50,300 in 2012-13 to $75,080 this winter. Hunter said the hike won’t mean less road improvement money because Sheffield officials budget for the worst.

“We’re very proactive,” he said. “If we don’t spend it, then we move it over into different accounts.”

North Ridgeville costs increased $133,088, a 61 percent boost over 2012-13. However Mayor David Gillock said it would’ve been worse if the city hadn’t reduced salting secondary streets. Only curves, hills and intersections are salted. North Ridgeville reduced its annual salt purchases from 8,000 to 4,000 tons beginning in the 2011-12 winter. As the city neared 1,000 tons of remaining salt in February, it reduced salting state Route 10 to ramps and bridges.

Savings were also attributed to ClearLane, a costlier product that melts ice at lower temperatures and works for longer periods of time than traditional salt by adhering better to road surfaces. North Ridgeville officials said ClearLane, which supplemented the city’s regular salt supplies, proved a godsend during frequent single-digit and subzero temperatures.

Spring began March 20 and couldn’t come early enough for local officials like Avon Service Director Mike Farmer.

Avon saw overtime increase $33,070 — a 120 percent jump.

“Most people, they enjoy winter to a certain extent, but everyone I talk to says, ‘Man, I just want this to be over,’” Farmer said.

Reporters Steve Fogarty and Chelsea Miller contributed to this story.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.

NO COST FREEZE HERE

The harsh winter substantially increased costs around Lorain County.

Lorain County

  • 2012-13: $582,780
  • 2013-14: $742,315

Amherst

  • 2012-13: $80,676
  • 2013-14: $180,633

Avon (only overtime costs provided)

  • 2012-13: $27,400
  • 2013-14: $60,470

Avon Lake (only overtime costs provided)

  • 2012-13: $35,000
  • 2013-14: $82,000

Elyria (Includes cold patch costs)

  • 2012-13: $624,143
  • 2013-14: $869,528

Grafton (Estimated cost through Monday)

  • 2012-13: $13,587
  • 2013-14: $18,000

Lorain

  • 2012-13: $193,894
  • 2013-14: $552,727

North Ridgeville (Includes cold patch and Clear Lane costs)

  • 2012-13: $216,565
  • 2013-14: $349,953

Sheffield 

  • 2012-13: $50,300
  • 2013-14: $75,080

Sheffield Lake

  • 2012-13: $69,280
  • 2013-14: $95,127

SOURCES: Avon, Avon Lake, Elyria, Grafton, Lorain, Lorain County, North Ridgeville, Sheffield, Sheffield Lake