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Hits keep coming

Bills assessed as storm looms

Fresh off a record snowfall, another storm continued to make travel treacherous on Monday, as local governments continued to take financial hits from an unprecedented year of snow removal.

The Spokane City Council earmarked $1.2 million from reserves to help cover the city’s response starting last week. Public Works Director Dave Mandyke said the city is spending $220,000 a day to dig out.

While some of that money would be spent anyway – on city employee salaries – much of the figure represents overtime. About $70,000 pays for the 25 private contractors on the streets 24 hours a day.

Snowfall in the past week has made 2008 the snowiest year on record in Spokane. Although the National Weather Service usually measures snow in terms of a winter season, rather than calendar years, the numbers illustrate the colossal snow conditions the Inland Northwest has faced since January.

With the 7.4 inches that fell Sunday and Monday, Spokane reached 109 inches of snow in 2008, said weather service meteorologist Steve Bodnar. The old record was 100.5 inches in 1964.

The city expects to finish its first round of residential plowing, not including Browne’s Addition, today. Enough snow has fallen since the first clearing that the city will start again, Mandyke said.

In Browne’s Addition, north-south streets will be plowed today, and east-west streets Wednesday, city spokeswoman Marelen Feist said in a news release. Vehicle in plows’ way will be towed.

Spokane County spokeswoman Martha Lou Wheatley-Billeter said the county hopes to finish its first round of residential plowing by this morning. It, too, will start a second round in neighborhoods.

“It’s going to be very difficult because we have to keep the emergency routes and primary arterials open,” Wheatley-Billeter said. “If people can get out (today) they really need to get supplies.”

Meanwhile, a convoy of dump trucks rumbled to and from downtown Spokane on Monday, hauling away last week’s snowstorm.

Trent Avenue resembled a construction site as the trucks – each loaded with snow reaped from the berms bisecting streets – steered into city property near Trent and Freya Street.

“This is really something, isn’t it?” said truck driver Wendy Henneman, who was working her fourth straight 12-hour day.

The snow heaped at the city’s dump site reached more than 14 feet high and formed a wall stretching more than a block. Unlike last year, when snow berms languished on downtown streets until the city was done plowing, city officials made removal a priority. An industrial snow thrower and 15 city-owned dump trucks along with 10 dump trucks and drivers hired through private contractors made short work of the piles.

But officials were contemplating how long the city can continue its downtown removal effort in light of more storms in the forecast. Downtown Spokane Partnership President Marty Dickinson said if snow keeps falling, “then we’re going to have to adjust our level of expectation.”

In Spokane Valley, Mayor Richard Munson declared a state of emergency Monday in hopes of tapping state and federal money for his city.

Coeur d’Alene officials weren’t worrying about the budget implications of snow removal. The city planned for seven storms this winter, Finance Director Troy Tymesen said.“If we had five more of these throughout the winter,” he said, “we would be OK on the financial plan.”

Coeur d’Alene Deputy City Administrator Jon Ingalls said a typical North Idaho storm dumps 7 inches on the ground.

“It takes a little longer to wrestle with 34 inches,” he said. “Instead of 30 hours, it took us 40 (to plow the whole city).”

Streets remained slippery enough Monday for the Spokane Transit Authority to continue its scaled-down service. Spokeswoman Molly Myers said a decision will be made early today that could reopen routes that haven’t run since Wednesday. “We’re hoping that we’re going to get the majority of the routes out tomorrow morning,” she said.

Spokane garbage collection restarted Monday after two days of cancellations. Mandyke said that pickup was a struggle in many places and that some locations were skipped because of inaccessible alleys and other problems. Residents who missed their pickup can set out twice as much trash next week, officials said.

Mail carriers were caught up, said U.S. Postal Service spokeswoman Lisa Nystuen. If carriers cannot reach mailboxes or drive to residents on rural routes, however, delivery may be delayed until paths are cleared, she said.

Jonathan Brunt, John Stucke, Drew Maffei, and Alison Boggs contributed to this report.


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