By JOE SHOUSE • Correspondent
With a sigh of relief, the calendar reminds us the long-awaited first day of spring has finally arrived. And after enduring a long, cold, snowy winter, it’s now time for Paulding County villages to assess how they fared in what will go down as one of the most challenging winters in history.
Snow removal, street repairs, potholes, overtime, frozen pipes, and other unusual hardships and added expenses have taxed communities since early January.
For the village of Oakwood, administrator John Keyes reports that overall the village is in pretty good shape.
“We had two homes that were without water due to frozen lines,” said Keyes.
Overall, Keyes believes Oakwood escaped without too many potholes or much overtime; where the village has seen an increase is in the salt usage, fuel costs, and natural gas bills to heat its four buildings.
Fiscal Officer Susan Barron has seen a jump in heating the fire house, water building, EMS building, and the town hall. “Last year for the three winter months, we spent $5,535 heating the buildings while this year we have totaled $7,782,” said Barron.
There has been a slight increase in road salt and fuel for its vehicles.
The Village of Antwerp is looking at a $40,000 setback when it comes to expenses caused by the winter weather.
“We’ve had water main breaks, equipment breakdowns, and other expenses due to frozen pipes,” said Antwerp treasurer Loretta Baker.
The village’s front end loader required a major repair in the amount of $6,600, which was not budgeted. Appropriations for snow removal, salt and grit was set at $4,500 while the village has spent nearly $10,000. A non-budgeted item addressed by the village was icing in the water tower due to malfunctioning sensors in the tank that measure the water level. Repair on the tower totaled $3,500.
Water lines under Ohio 49 froze, causing residents to not have water and forcing the village to close the highway for a day in order to make necessary repairs. The non-budgeted repair was $4,003.
Like the other villages within the county, Payne is equipped to manage their winter issues when it comes to snow removal. However, this year, the challenge to stay above the task was often times beyond their capabilities.
“We had to contract out for some of our snow removal. In addition to our own department working, we also paid an additional $5,487 for snow removal by outside contractors,” said Fiscal Officer Cheryl Halter.
The job of snow removal and keeping the streets clear required 100 extra-man hours.
“We know we have potholes that will need repaired. We are scheduled to have some of our streets sealed and paved later this spring and we hope to take care of the pothole problem at that time,” said Mayor Terry Smith.
Last Wednesday’s quick snowstorm that dumped over seven inches of snow in the area was the worst snowstorm of the winter season, according to Paulding street supervisor Jerry Smith.
“It was quick and a very wet snow that delivered another challenge for our equipment and manpower,” said Smith.
Paulding’s four-man crew and its four trucks can usually clear the village in six to eight hours. “I know the public is getting tired of all the snow and to be honest we are getting tired of cleaning the streets, but it’s our job and overall I think we have done a good job,” said Smith.
Although the plowing season is winding down, it is important to remove vehicles from the streets in order to clear the snow properly.
“With so much snow, residents often times will have their driveways cleaned, allowing snow to blow right back out into the streets and causing more problems,” said village administrator Harry Wiebe. The administrator went on to comment on how Paulding snow removal has been superior compared to other communities similar in size to Paulding.
The village encountered between 10 and 12 frozen service lines. These lines run between the main to the shut off valve in the street right-of-way.
“To give you an idea how the long periods of cold temperatures effect the lines, we had a dozen this year and in the past 15 years we had one,” said Smith.
There have been a few water main breaks with the frost line penetrating the ground by as much as three feet. The repair of water main breaks have been a little more time consuming due to the frozen ground.
“Because of the frozen ground and needing a jackhammer to break through the area in question, it often times takes longer to determine where the actual break is located,” said Smith.
Concerning costs, hours on the job, and assistance, the village has encountered its share of increased expenses. In 2012-13 there were 90 hours of overtime issued for snow and ice control while this year the number of hours increased to 380.
Cost of salt has nearly doubled from $6,000 last year to $10,000 so far in 2013-14.
There was no outside contract for assistance concerning downtown snow removal in 2012-13; however, the village has spent $10,800 this year.
Potholes will be an immediate issue once the weather warms up and the existing water is eliminated from the holes. “Once the water is out and the temperatures consistently get to the upper 20s we will be able to fill the potholes,” said Wiebe.
Wiebe went on to say how the street department employees, while working on snow removal and other issues, have other continuing responsibilities such as digging graves.
“These long extended cold spells have been tough on the equipment as well as the crew working outside in the elements,” he said.
“It’s been a long, tough winter and we are all looking forward to spring. I want to thank everyone for their patience and for those who removed their cars from the streets so we could do our job,” said Smith.