3,000 hours in 11 days – Highway Department tired of cold-hearted weather

Published 9:30 am Friday, February 27, 2015

Star Photo/Brandon Hicks Highway Department workers clean a side road in the Lynn Valley community.

Star Photo/Brandon Hicks
Highway Department workers clean a side road in the Lynn Valley community.

In just 11 days, 40 employees of the Carter County Highway Department have logged more than 3,000 hours as they’ve worked to keep roads clear during a series of snowfalls.

“If you multiply the number of employees we have by the hours we’ve worked, we’ve got well over 3,000 hours,” Carter County Road Superintendent Roger Colbaugh said.

Those hours span the time frame from Feb. 15 through Feb. 25 and does not include the time highway department employees spent working on the roads during the snowfall that hit the county Wednesday evening into Thursday morning.

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“There are some days we have seen 17 hours in the day here in the last week and a half,” Colbaugh said.

During that 11-day time period, three different winter weather systems have passed through the area dropping several inches of snow across the county each time. While businesses and schools close during severe weather, the crews of the highway department don’t have that option. Colbaugh praised the work by employees in his department who have worked long hours in bad weather to help keep the roads safe.

“They’ve been out working hard over this last week and a half,” he said.

The Highway Department’s budget has funds designated to help cover the cost of employee overtime in events such as this, but Colbaugh said it may not be enough.

“By the end of the fiscal year I’m sure we will have to ask for them to transfer some money from one line item to another,” Colbaugh said, adding at this time he thinks there is enough money in his budget to shift around to cover the expense.

But, that could change, he said.

“It depends on what happens in the future,” Colbaugh said. “If the weather keeps doing like it has been doing, we might have to go back and ask for some more out of the general fund.”

In addition to the increased cost of labor due to overtime, heavy snows impact the department’s budget in other ways, Colbaugh said. The department also has to deal with the cost of using more fuel for its fleet and more materials such as salt and chat to treat the roads. Just this week, the department had to purchase another 200 tons of chat to mix with salt to treat the roads.

When the vehicles and equipment see more hours working to clear roads, that puts more wear and tear on them, Colbaugh said, which leads to more repairs and additional maintenance.

“We’ve had a few minor breakdowns but we’ve repaired them fairly quickly and gotten the trucks back out on the roads,” Colbaugh said. “We’ve got three mechanics who are working about all the time to keep the equipment running.”

At this time, Colbaugh said he does not have an estimate for the financial impact the recent snows have had on his department in the form of additional costs for labor, materials and repairs.