SANDPOINT — Bonner County residents may be getting sick of all the snow, but guess what? More snow is on the way.
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning Tuesday for Bonner and surrounding counties, in effect from 4 p.m. today until 4 p.m. Thursday. Snow accumulations could reach four to eight inches in the valleys and 10 to 20 inches in the mountains.
With the amount of snow that covered the area over the weekend, Boundary County declared an emergency Monday, calling for help with shoveling school roofs. In Bonner County, the Lake Pend Oreille School District called its fifth snow day of the year. Shawn Woodward, district superintendent, said five days are built into the calendar in preparation for such weather, so if any more days are canceled, they will have to be made up at the end of the year.
With the school district's already tight budget, the cost associated with plowing the schools and keeping buildings maintained is taking its toll.
At the last school board meeting in January, Lisa Hals, LPOSD chief financial and operations officer, said the district's snow plowing and heating budgets have taken a hit with the snow as well as the extreme cold this winter.
In an email to the Daily Bee last week, Hals said the district budgeted $56,442 for snow plowing. So far, invoices totaled $48,000 with several January invoices still forthcoming, not including any plowing from this past weekend. Last year, she said, the district spent a total of $37,000 on snow plowing.
Hals said the district is also responsible for the "considerable" snow removal from and monitoring of rooftops that exceed snow loads. If snow removal costs exceed the budget, the "first and foremost" of protocols is safety. If needed, funds in the facility budget will be reallocated to toward snow removal.
If damage occurs on a property related to snow and weather, district officials try to recoup losses through insurance coverage.
"In fact, we are in this process right now," Hals said. "We have extensive damage on many of our sites due to frost and building and foundation heaving."
The damage is estimated at $20,000, but she said they will not know the actual extent of the damage until spring.
Although she didn't have the exact numbers on hand when contacted by the Daily Bee, city administrator Jennifer Stapleton said the city is well within its snow plowing budget.
"At this point we don't have any concern about exceeding our budgeted amount," Stapleton said. "We use our own crews to do snow removal, so that's budgeted in there, and we always anticipate there is going to be some overtime and budget in funding for extra help if we need that as well.
If snow removal costs were to exceed the city's budget, Stapleton said they would pick it up from cost savings or re-budget funds from another line item under street maintenance and repair.
In the past, she said, the city produced its own salt brine, but found it more efficient to partner with the Independent Highway District to use their salt brine. But the city does still have the ability to produce it if needed, she said.
She said city officials will be revisiting snow removal policies moving into next year, especially with the upcoming two-way street reversion in the downtown area. Stapleton said they are looking at going into a multi-phase system. For example, stage one might be 0-2 inches of snow, stage two at 2-4 inches and stage three at four or more.
Stapleton also wanted to remind the public that it is the responsibility of residents and property owners to remove snow from sidewalks adjacent to their property. It is important, Stapleton said, so that residents — kids, disabled and elderly in particular — can walk safely.
INDEPENDENT HIGHWAY DISTRICT
The Independent Highway District maintains approximately 18 miles of their own right-of-way, about half of which is the stretch of road up to Schweitzer Mountain from North Boyer Avenue, and the other half is in the West Pine Street and Syringa area. IHD employees also cover all of Dover, Kootenai and Ponderay through memorandum of understandings with each city — agreements that are renewed each year, said Scott Hanson, IHD road supervisor.
The highway district has four full-time employees, including Hanson, and three temporary employees. The same three people have showed up for the temporary positions for the past three years, which Hanson said is good because they know the program.
Hanson has been with the highway district for five years, he said, and this winter has been a "little tougher" than in the previous years as far as snow.
"We have yet to run out of money from what we budgeted," Hanson said, adding that they have overrun the "normal" budget for plowing with the heavy snowfall this winter.
If money does get low, he said the money would likely come from summer street maintenance funds.
"We are not going to just stop plowing," he said.
Bonner County Road and Bridge Director Don Hutson did not respond by deadline for comment on impact to county roads.