RALEIGH — State and local agencies are burning through the money budgeted for winter storm cleanup, but officials say they’ll spend what they need to now.
“We’re not thinking about the budget at this point in time,” Gov. Pat McCrory said Wednesday. “We’ll spend whatever is necessary to get the job done and to protect the life and safety of our citizens.”
State and local governments may be eligible for federal money later to cover some of their storm-related expenses, McCrory said.
“We’ll worry about that after the storm is over …,” McCrory said. “I’m pretty confident we’ll have enough reserves to deal with the situation.”
By late Tuesday, the state Department of Transportation had spent $36 million of its $40 million storm budget – for salt and brine to prepare roads in advance, and for sand and more salt and heavy machinery to get snow and ice off the roads after the storms had passed.
“NCDOT will continue any operations necessary to keep the roads safe and clear ice and snow as quickly as possible,” Mike Charbonneau, a DOT deputy secretary, said by email. “If that requires going beyond the budgeted and reserve amounts, it would mean using additional dollars from the overall maintenance budget.”
Triangle city officials have been scrambling to replenish their storm supplies.
Chris McGee of Raleigh’s public works department says he sent city trucks to Wilmington on Tuesday to load up on salt. Two weeks ago, he’d ordered 2,000 tons of salt to replace what was used in the last snowstorm, but so far the overwhelmed delivery company has brought only about 300 tons.
“We’ve had a lot of trouble getting additional salt,” McGee said.
But he added that he has plenty to get Raleigh through this week’s forecast snow and ice – 1,000 or so tons ready to go. So far this year, the city has used about 2,900 tons of salt at a cost of $478,000.
“My budget can easily handle 7,000 tons of salt,” McGee said.
In milder winters, the salt barns have gone largely untouched, allowing McGee to fund minor street paving projects when spring arrives. That likely won’t happen this year. “It doesn’t look like we’re going to be turning in any money at the end of the year,” McGee said.
Cary budgets $100,000 a year for snow removal, not including employee overtime – and town workers logged 1,250 hours of overtime during a storm in January. The town spent $35,000 to replenish its salt and sand supplies after that storm, and an additional $8,000 to replace snowplow blades.
The budget is holding up, said Scott Hecht, Cary’s public works director. If at any point the town exceeds the snow-removal budget, he said, it just moves around money from other parts of the budget.
“We just work it (in) and deal with it,” Hecht said. “We’ve never not had enough. (Town) council has already approved if we needed more.”
A Durham spokeswoman said the city had 1,500 tons of salt on hand and enough money in the budget for 1,000 tons more. If necessary, she said, the city will reduce operating costs in other areas to cover extra snow expenses.
Smithfield is staying within its $5,000 budget for salt, said Tim Kerigan, a town spokesman. Workers who put in extra hours for storm work will take comp time later, he said.
Chapel Hill spreads its storm budget thin by making its own mix of brine to spread on streets before the snow falls, Public Works Director Lance Norris said. This week, the town shared some of its brine with Hillsborough.
“We have an ample supply for this event,” Norris said. “And enough if we have to help our neighbors.”
After the storm passes, DOT managers and town officials will be scrambling to replenish their salt supplies.
“Everyone and their mother is going to be needing salt,” Hecht said.
Reporters Colin Campbell, Paula Seligson, Jim Wise, Tammy Grubb and Sarah Nagem contributed.