Storm costs for Georgia local governments tops $19 million

Georgia governments shelled out $19 million to tackle last month’s snow and ice storm, a figure that could increase as local officials finalize their numbers.

Despite the costs, local jurisdictions should probably not expect any federal reimbursements .

Ken Davis, spokesman for the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, said what local government spent during the storm has not yet been examined to determine if any would meet requirements for federal aid.

But he doubts local government's main expense,  personnel costs related to snow removal, will qualify. The storm did not produce the widespread power outages and require mass shelters for residents that more severe storms produce, Davis said. That decreases the likelihood of federal assistance.

“We have not had a request for federal assistance from any of the states of the southeast that were affected by the winter storm in January,” said Mary Hudak, external affairs director for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s southeastern region.

The storm, which began the night of Jan. 9, left the metro area practically immobile, with transportation routes and businesses shut down for days due to ice accumulations.

In the metro area, Gwinnett County reported spending about $372,000, Fulton $309,000 and DeKalb about $686,000 in storm costs. DeKalb officials said their figure does not include at least three days of road treatment.

Cobb costs finalized within the past week, show the county spent about $267,000 among all county departments. A majority of the costs, about $137,700, was spent on personnel working to clear streets, answering resident phone calls and handling emergencies.

Throw in costs from three of the counties county's six cities — Austell, Marietta and Kennesaw — and the overall costs increase to $430,000.

“The areas where we would like to do things differently were staffing and communication,” said Faye DiMassimo, Cobb’s transportation director.

One possible improvement would be to locate a public safety officer within the county’s transportation management center along with transportation employees to help prioritize income calls during weather events. Cobb officials have had four debriefing meetings since the storm, including three with county personnel and one with state transportation officials.

Road clearing efforts on major routes were hampered during the storm in some areas because state crews overwhelmed with incidents on the interstates were unable to immediately focus on state thoroughfares within the counties and cities. GDOT’s storm costs had reached $5.5 million a week after the storm, and the amount was expected to increase as the figures were finalized.

Within Fulton County, Roswell spent about $37,000 during the storm, city officials said this week, including about $9,000 for labor and $28,100 for supplies, equipment and transportation.  Atlanta, which hired at least a half dozen outside contractors to help with snow removal and cleanup, still has not released a final figure on how much the city spent on the efforts.

Steve Acenbrak, Roswell’s transportation director, recommended the city buy a new or used grader, at about $200,000 to replace the one broken during the storm. He also recommended spending $11,000 for three extra tailgate spreaders.

Acenbrak is recommending the city establish a storm ranking system with an action plan for each of the five levels. He is also recommending the city hire contractors for more equipment, pre-treat historically problematic roads with sand and salt and encourage homeowners associations to hire private contractors for snow removal in the future.

Staff Writer Ernie Suggs contributed to this article.