White stuff costs lots of green

Unusually heavy winter snowfalls have caused road crews in area communities to work long hours clearing roadways. It has cost many Trumbull County communities more in overtime as crews often spent overnights clearing mountains of snow.

This winter has been the fifth-snowiest on record as measured by the National Weather Service at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport.

As of Thursday, the area has seen 85.9 inches of snow on the ground, which is 32 inches more than the the normal amount of snow for this time of the year, according to WKBN 27 News meteorologist Ryan Halicki.

Average seasonal snowfall – July 1 to June 30 – in this area is 53.9 inches. Most of it – 51.3 inches – has come since Jan. 1.

During the winter season, Warren operates three shifts in an attempt to limit the amount of overtime. Still, the city in the first 2 1/2 months of 2014 spent about $42,272 in overtime in its operations department for snow removal. During the same period of 2013, its employees collected about $30,184 in overtime.

Councilman Eddie Colbert, D-7th Ward, said the city set aside about $50,000 for overtime for snow removal. There is unlikely to be a significant weather event until next November, he said.

However, the water distribution department ran over fixing breaks in older waterlines because of the season’s freezes and thaws. Through the first pay period of March, the city paid $46,332 in overtime in its water distribution division, according to City Auditor David Griffing. During the same period of 2013, it paid out $41,710 in overtime.

Dale Grimm, Lordstown Village’s street commissioner, said since Jan. 1, the average street department employee earned 75 to 95 hours of overtime per employee. There are six employees in the department.

“We’ve paid out $9,500 in overtime since Jan. 1,” Grimm said. “From Jan. 1 through the end of March of 2013, the employee with the most overtime had no more than 42 hours.”

For all of 2013, the average street department employee earned no more than 120 hours worth of overtime.

In Girard, Mayor James Melfi said, “We paid $8,985 in overtime during the first two months of 2013,” Melfi said. “This year, we’ve paid $6,528 in overtime. I was surprised at those figures. We’ve been doing the majority of our snow removal during regular business hours.”

Girard spent $7,501 in overtime to do waterline repairs in January and February 2013 compared with $11,694 during the same period this year.

Liberty Township Administrator Pat Ungaro said that since Jan. 1, there has been 184.5 hours of overtime in which it has paid $5,739. Last year, Liberty had 464 hours of overtime over the entire year and paid out $12,000 in overtime.

“We are all hoping the worse of the winter is over,” Ungaro said.

Liberty has a five-person street department crew that removes snow from the township’s streets.

Weathersfield Administrator David A. Rouan said there has been 367.75 hours of overtime since the beginning of the year.

“We’ve paid $12,636.06 in overtime to four employees,” he said. “The amount we’ve spent in overtime since Jan. 1 represents 42 percent of the amount we spent over the entire year in 2013.”

Jack Haney described Newton Falls having to live within its budget constraints.

“We are working with one less individual in the street department and we are limiting the amount of overtime,” Haney said. “I don’t know if we are spending more this year, because while this winter has been difficult, the type of storms sometimes were longer.”

Newton Falls employees have earned about 131.5 hours and $4,333 in overtime.

The Trumbull County Engineer’s Office, during the first 2 1/2 months, has had 3,461 hours in overtime, affecting 61 employees, since Jan. 1, according to Herb Laukhart of the Trumbull County Engineer’s Office. It has paid out $101,129.83. During the same period in 2013, its employees worked 2,352 hours in overtime and earned $68,247.

Austintown paid more than twice the amount in overtime costs from Jan 1 through Feb. 28, 2014, than it did during the same period in 2013. It has spent $48,000 for snow removal and the laying down of aggregate this year compared to about $20,000 in 2013. Austintown has 14 employees on its road crew.

For the entire winter season, Ohio Department of Transportation District 4 paid out $1.5 million in overtime for snow removal in the six-county region. The region includes Ashtabula, Trumbull, Mahoning, Portage, Stark, and Summit counties.

“The amount of overtime spent depends on the weather,” Brent Kovacs, a spokesman with ODOT, said. “There was not a significant increase in overtime costs this year versus previous year.”

In the 2012-2013 winter season, ODOT paid $1.3 million.

The amount of winter overtime spent within the district has increased every year since the 2012 winter season, when it spent a low of $851,000. Since then, the district spent more than $1.1 million in overtime.