The city of Boise expects to keep clearing snow for a while.
So far, the city has paid private contractors $230,000 to help it respond to snow storms that have beleaguered the Treasure Valley recently. Those contractors have operated plows, graders and other equipment to clear streets and haul snow to city-owned properties.
On Jan. 5, Mayor David Bieter declared a seven-day weather-related emergency that allowed the city to bypass its customary time-consuming spending rules. The City Council passed an indefinite emergency resolution five days later.
The goal was not to alarm the public, Bieter’s chief of staff Jade Riley said Wednesday, but to give the city flexibility to quickly respond to severe weather. Forecasters expect weather to stay cold or wet — or both — for weeks.
Besides private contractors, employees of city departments such as Parking Services and Parks and Recreation have shoveled sidewalks along many miles of city streets, including most of Downtown and along public transportation corridors, Boise Public Works director Steve Burgos said Wednesday at a special meeting convened by a bare quorum of City Council members.
Burgos said the city hasn’t tallied the cost of those efforts yet, though it is keeping track. So far, the departments are covering the additional costs, including overtime pay for employees, from their budgets. When winter finally ends, he said, the city will add all the unexpected costs for each department and transfer money to them from an emergency account to get the departments back on budget.
Declaring a emergency, as most of the Treasure Valley’s city and county governments have done, opens the door for state and federal agencies to reimburse weather-related costs.
The city has not asked Ada County Highway District, which has primary responsibility for maintaining public roads, to repay Boise’s costs.
“I certainly think we’ve played a role in accomplishing what their responsibilities are, and that we should at least request reimbursement from ACHD for our expenditure,” Councilman Scot Ludwig said.
The highway district expected to spend less than $2 million on snow removal this year. As of Thursday, the district had spent more than twice that, at $4.22 million, not counting materials for which the district hasn’t received bills yet, spokeswoman Nicole Dubois said in an email.
After winter, Riley said, highway district and city leaders plan to meet to discuss how they responded to the record-setting snowfall and how they might prepare themselves better for future emergencies.
Storm water in the sewer plants and how you can help stop minor flooding
Melting ice and snow, combined with clogged storm drains, caused minor flooding in Boise streets last week.
In many places, water reached the crests of streets and trickled through manhole covers and into city sewer lines. This phenomenon pushed flows at Boise’s sewer plants to 41 million gallons per day — about 30 percent higher than they’ve ever been, Boise Public Works Director Steve Burgos said Tuesday.
The spike tested the sewer system’s limits, Burgos said, but the plants handled all of the incoming flows.
The next time a warm — or at least less cold than the weather has been — snap comes along, the city will do what it can to clean up slush and clear storm drains, city leaders said. But City Council President Elaine Clegg on Tuesday urged residents to help out by clearing storm drains near their homes or places of business.
Here’s more information on how and where to clear drains.