Wichita spends nearly $250,000 in overtime during snow storm

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WICHITA, Kan. -- Cleaning up after the storm may pose a financial challenge for the City of Wichita.

"This storm was a little different," said Joe Pajor, deputy director of the Department of Public Works. "We had the first large snow event followed by the extremely cold temperatures followed by the second snow event."

Pajor said Wichita budgeted about $560,000 for snow and ice removal this year, but its spent about half that with the recent storm.

So far, the city has used about 7,000 tons of sand on the roads. Sand costs $8.96 per ton, costing about $63,000.

Yet, the biggest expense is overtime paid to staff. About 100 workers helped run 50 snow plows and other equipment during a 10-day time-frame. The crews worked in 12 hours shifts, and they were on the road 24 hours a day. The city spent about $249,000 for 7,000 hours of overtime.

Pajor said during most storms, the department can rearrange schedules to combat the extra expense. He said because there was a constant threat of snow and ice, they had to tackle the roads to keep residents safe.

With the $63,000 on sand and the $249,000 on overtime, the city's winter-storm budget is left with $248,000. Wichita plans to recycle sand currently collected on the roads.

During this storm, the department also made small adjustments, like waiting to put down road salt. Pajor said the chemicals are less effective in sub-zero temperatures.

"If you don't have enough salt and sand to continue to put on it, and it refreezes, it refreezes as straight ice and that could be much more treacherous to drive on than the snow is with the sand on it for traction," he said.

So what happens when the city runs out of its snow-removal funds?

Pajor said this was a problem last year, and a number of things will happen. He said the city will attempt to adjust any budget issues when the next fiscal year is addressed this summer. He said if the expenses are a problem, it would mean the department would cutback on other projects, like road repairs.

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