December 4, 1996 in City

Ice Left Its Mark On Roads, Too Biggest Potholes Will Be Fixed First, City Says

By The Spokesman-Review
 

The ice storm that tore Spokane’s trees to pieces did a number on the streets, too.

Potholes are popping up all over the city, creating tire-eating craters in already crumbling streets.

“The cold weather just got things started,” said Bruce Steele, the city’s transportation director. “I’ve received reports from all over the city, from the very northern tip to the very southern tip.”

About $20,000 remains in the city’s 1996 street repair budget - just barely enough to fix the 400 to 500 potholes that appeared since mid-October, Steele said. He added he’s expecting a record number of potholes - about 2,500 - during the 1996-97 winter season.

“Gradually, the number of potholes increases because we’re not doing any resurfacing,” Steele said.

The worse the pothole, the quicker it’ll be fixed, said Acting City Manager Bill Pupo. “We’re trying to get to the major ones that are causing the most traffic grief.”

Power companies reported little progress Tuesday in restoring electricity in the handful of areas still blacked out by the Nov. 19 storm. But potholes and lingering outages aren’t the only reminders of the region’s worst ice storm on record.

Spokane city and county budgets may feel the aftereffects for months to come.

David Byrnes, director of the city-county department of emergency management, said local governments - including outlying fire and water districts - spent at least $3 million responding to the ice storm.

That figure includes dollars spent “outside the normal budget, anything extraordinary” because of the storm, such as overtime for street crews and firefighters, Byrnes said.

Because Gov. Mike Lowry declared the storm an emergency, local governments should be able to recover much of the response cost from the state Emergency Management Division. “We hope,” Byrnes said.

That declaration authorized government officials to spend money without going through formal bidding procedures, Byrnes said. “As the disaster starts to wind down and unfold, everybody gets to be accountable for what they” spent.

For example, the city hired crews from the state Department of Natural Resources to help clear away downed tree limbs. “They have to pay that bill and hope the state pays them back,” Byrnes said.

County administrator Jim Lindow said the county spent at least $747,000 responding to the ice storm. “We don’t have all the bills in yet,” he said.

What the state doesn’t repay has to come from somewhere, Lindow said. “We’d have to look at our fund reserves - or look at taking cuts.”

The city spent about $1.9 million on the storm. Pupo said he didn’t know what the city would do with bills the state doesn’t pay. “I’d be speculating,” he said.

The city’s transportation budget already is struggling because of the storm.

Director Steele said he plans to ask the council Dec. 16 for $1.5 million to help with ice and snow removal through year’s end.

“It’s in the red because of all the cleanup,” Steele said.

Pupo said the city will have to transfer money from other departments to cover the expense.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: DEBRIS DISPOSAL Still need to get rid of that pile of broken tree branches in front of your house? Spokane residents can dump storm debris for free until Dec. 31 at the garbage incinerator on Geiger Boulevard, transfer stations in Colbert and the Spokane Valley, and Joe Albi Stadium’s south parking lot. The city’s own street-cleaning effort should be completed in about two weeks, officials said. For more information about debris disposal, call 625-7738.

This sidebar appeared with the story: DEBRIS DISPOSAL Still need to get rid of that pile of broken tree branches in front of your house? Spokane residents can dump storm debris for free until Dec. 31 at the garbage incinerator on Geiger Boulevard, transfer stations in Colbert and the Spokane Valley, and Joe Albi Stadium’s south parking lot. The city’s own street-cleaning effort should be completed in about two weeks, officials said. For more information about debris disposal, call 625-7738.


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