Old Man Winter has stuck the government of Ocean County with a $1.8 million bill for the clean-up costs of three major snowstorms that buried the region since Dec. 19, Freeholder Director James F. Lacey said Wednesday. Ocean County owns and maintains 621 miles of roads. When calculations are made to factor in that each road is more than one traffic lane across and there are multiple lanes elsewhere, the total length of salted and plowed roads reaches about 1,500 “lane miles,” according to the county Division of Public Information. That distance is greater than a road trip between Toms River and Lincoln, Neb.
The estimated mileage does not include parking lots and driveways at about 100 county facilities, including the 420-acre Robert J. Miller Airpark in Berkeley with its 5,949-foot runway, which itself is 100 feet wide.
The December storm cost $485,454; the Feb. 5 to Feb. 7 storm cost $499,142, and the Feb. 9 to Feb. 11 storm cost $518,252. The totals include overtime costs for the Road Department, as well as salt, calcium and brine costs.
An additional $50,000 in total costs was incurred by the Buildings and Grounds Department for removing snow from county facilities.
In total, the county spent more than $1.3 million on salt and $413,142 in overtime costs for Road Department crews, according to county officials.
Salt, “that commodity is far and above our highest cost,” Lacey said. “In the almost $2 million that these three storms have cost us, $1.3 million of it was the salt. Salt used to be about $28 a ton, it is now almost $70.”
The cost has been so high of late that county officials are exploring the possibility of replacing or supplementing the use of road salt with sugar beet, which is used as a de-icing tool in other parts of the United States.
“I don’t know enough about it, but they’re claiming that it’s better for the environment and it does just as good a job. I hear it’s very dirty, but we’re going to look at it and report back to you,” Lacey said, who serves as director of transportation on the five-member, all-Republican board.
Almost 20,000 tons of salt have been used on county roads, as well as 14,000 gallons of calcium and more than 60,000 gallons of brine, according to county officials.
Lacey recently sent a letter to Gov. Chris Christie to request that Ocean County be included in the governor’s emergency declaration for the first snowstorm in February in an effort to recoup some of the clean-up costs for that storm, according to county officials.
“The roads have to be cleared and opened quickly,” Freeholder John P. Kelly, who serves as director of law and public safety on the board, said in a written statement released after Wednesday’s meeting. “These roads need to be cleared so emergency responders including police, fire and emergency medical technicians, can answer calls and get to residents that need help.” APP