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Buried cities clear streets, face budget crunch

SHARE Buried cities clear streets, face budget crunch
Morris children, from left, Corinne, Devan, Brendan and Stockton, have a big job to clear snow from the sidewalk near their West Valley home.

Morris children, from left, Corinne, Devan, Brendan and Stockton, have a big job to clear snow from the sidewalk near their West Valley home.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

WEST JORDAN — Much of northern Utah felt the chill of Wednesday's storm, but west-side cities in Salt Lake County seemed to bear the brunt of the snowfall and were expected to receive even more.

The National Weather Service issued a lake-effect snow warning through today at 10 a.m., particularly for Salt Lake and Tooele counties, anticipating 3 to 6 inches of accumulation to fall in those areas.

The precipitation has affected some city budgets more than others.

West Jordan might be in the worst shape of the west-side cities, since its $160,000 budget for blades, salt and personnel has already been depleted.

"The storms hit early, they hit hard," said Mayor Melissa Johnson. "Our snow-removal budget has already been spent."

Johnson said the city is looking at cutting spending in other areas to account for future storms this winter. They might cut back on paving projects in the spring, and are currently prioritizing plowing routes. Snow plow operators are clearing the most-traveled roads first and getting to neighborhood cul-de-sacs last, sometimes days after a storm.

"We'll need to find the money from other line items in the budget," she said.

Wednesday's 7-inch snowstorm in Herriman cost the city nearly $20,000, said city spokeswoman Nicole Martin. But the city only used about 30 percent of its salt allowance, which puts Herriman in a good position for future winter storms, she said.

"We feel like we forecasted well. We have plenty of budget left," she said.

The National Weather Service anticipated 2 to 4 inches of snowfall overnight in Herriman, and the city plans to keep the snow plows out in force so long as the snow is falling.

"Public safety is a priority," she said.

Tooele's salt stores are about halfway out, said city employee Mark Busico. The city budgeted $30,000 for salt, and has used about $15,000 so far, and it could go through a large portion of that if the estimated 5-9 inches of snow predicted by the National Weather Service actually falls by this morning.

Busico said the city will remove the snow, even if it means taking from other budgets.

"We've never gone short on snow removal," he said. "It's a big priority for us. We like to take care of our residents."

At the state level, the Utah Department of Transportation had dispatched all of its nearly 500 plows across the state Thursday.

"The last couple of days have been really, really hard on us," said Lynn Bernhard, manager of winter operations for UDOT.

The department spent about $2.5 million in the past three days, he said. Its total winter snow removal budget is $22 million.

"We're running a little ahead (of budget) but we're not concerned at this point," Bernhard said.

The largest expenditure Bernhard remembers was $3.5 million over three days in March 2004.

In communities where plows hadn't visited Thursday, residents took matters, and shovels into their own hands.

The storm dumped about a foot and half of snow in West Valley City, where people spent hours shoveling.

Adrian Anderson was going nowhere fast when snow buried her car in the driveway. She spent hours shoveling before deciding to call it a snow day.

"My car was going one way (the front end). The back end was going the other way. So I just said forget it, I'm not going to work," she said.

Contributing: John Daley

e-mail: mfarmer@desnews.com