Mother Nature was an expensive date for Kent

Kent city officials spent nearly $150,000 to combat the two-week snowstorm that struck last month. That’s nearly five times as much money as the city typically spends annually to clear its streets when snowy weather hits.

City officials tapped Kent’s transportation budget contingency fund for about $100,000 to cover the extra costs for overtime hours, materials and equipment, said Larry Blanchard, city public works director.

The city transportation budget of $2.3 million includes about $40,000 per year for snowstorms. The budget includes a contingency fund of about $200,000 for unexpected expenses.

“We used up a good portion of the contingency,” Blanchard said. “Hopefully, we don’t have to use it all up.”

In an effort to keep streets passable during the snowstorms from Dec. 13-27, the city used 2,700 personnel hours, 22 tons of salt, 767 tons of sand and 2,650 gallons of de-icer. City crews used de-icer on 120 lane miles of streets and sanded nearly 1,500 lane miles.

“It was a busy couple of weeks,” Blanchard said. “It kept us hopping.”

City officials have spent an additional $40,000 so far to fight the flooding that struck the city last week. That money comes out of the city’s storm-drainage budget rather than the transportation budget.

Three major snowstorms hit the city last month. The city received between 12 to 20 inches of snow as measurements varied from the valley to the East Hill.

City crews worked 15, 12-hour days in a row before the snowstorms finally stopped in late December. The city owns six snowplows and has an order for three more to arrive later this year.

Over the previous three years, snowstorms also struck the city in December. But those events lasted only about two or three days.

“In this case, we had 15 days of snow and ice,” Blanchard said. “That’s about five times what we normally get and about five times the expenditures.”

City crews focused on clearing the main roads on the East Hill, West Hill and the valley before they would try to plow any neighborhoods.

“We got to some residential areas, but then we had to pull out because of another snow event,” Blanchard said.

The City Council congratulated the public works department roads crew for keeping major streets passable during the two-week stretch of snow.

“I want to thank the crews for your hard work,” City Councilwoman Deborah Ranniger said at the Jan. 6 Council meeting. “You made a difference. I knew if I could get out to the arterial, I could get where I wanted to go.”

Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke said at the Council meeting that she even had people stop her in the streets to tell her how well the city handled the snow removal, even when snow remained on neighborhood streets.

“Most people understand that you can’t get to residential streets,” Cooke said.

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