The two year-end snowstorms that still had cars spinning their wheels this week will cost budget-strapped El Paso County at least a half-million dollars.
With departments still tallying costs, County Commission Chairwoman Sallie Clark says the county cannot afford another big storm. The financial impact, she says, likely would sap the county's road and bridge fund.
"We'll have to take the money from somewhere else and probably delay other projects in the queue," she says, adding that it is too early to say what projects might be impacted.
John McCarty, who oversees the county's snow-removal crews, estimates the transportation department's costs will wind up between $550,000 and $600,000. That includes hundreds of hours of overtime, equipment "rentals" from the county's Fleet Management Department, and a mixture of salt and sand 1,290 tons and counting.
Fleet management anticipates $90,000 in unexpected fuel costs. The Sheriff's Office, too, is expected to submit overtime expenses as a result of the storm.
The county declared a state of emergency in hopes of obtaining federal and state disaster aid. But Clark says there is no guarantee funds will come soon, or at all.
Already, the county's 2007 budget is strained. Commissioners just completed $7.2 million in cuts. Human services for the county's poorest residents took one of the biggest hits.
Meanwhile, fears are high that snow crews could be called to action again, as winter began just two weeks ago. Even in spring and summer, they can be called on to help agencies deal with downpours and wildfires.
"It's OK as long as we don't go from blizzards to floods to fires," McCarty says. "That would be the worst-case scenario."
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