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The Nose

White and Green

Posted 2/26/2003

Is there ever a good time to get whomped with 28 inches of snow? No. Major snowstorms are a bitch whenever they come roaring at you. The bulk of our recent record-busting round of white stuff rained down Sunday and Monday, the latter being the Presidents' Day holiday. This was beneficial in some ways: no workday commute to get blitzed, and kids were out of school anyway. But cheapskates that we are, the Nose figured the timing put an extra hurting on the city's frayed purse strings in the form of extra pay for the snow-battling workers. And we were right.For facts and figures, we turned to Adrienne Barnes, spokeswoman for the Baltimore City Office of Transportation, which oversees the city's snow-removal efforts. She said at the height of the onslaught, there were 300 city workers on the streets. She also said that hourly workers received double-time pay on Sunday and time-and-a-half on Monday. Each shift was 12 hours long, with no overtime pay. City truck drivers (who become snowplow drivers when the flakes hit the fan) average $11.50 an hour. So, on Sunday, the rank-and-file snow foe earned $276, while Monday's efforts brought in $207. Using these numbers, snow-removal labor costs were 75 percent higher on Sunday and Monday than they would have been for two normal weekdays. (Now, we were also told that not all workers got this deal. A certain percentage were given comp time in lieu of extra pay).

The Nose doesn't begrudge the workers' extra compensation. Sunday is Sunday, and a holiday is a holiday. And those folks were slaving away in the white stuff while most of us watched it pound down from the warmth of our living-room couch (or did pounding of our own amid the jocularity of the corner pub).

No, there's no such thing as a well-timed snowstorm. But some storms may be better timed than others when it comes to besieging cash-strapped cities.

As it turns out, some book-balancing help for our snow-choked burg might come from the city Department of Public Works. A recent DPW press release announced that property owners are legally required to clear the snow from the sidewalks in front of their addresses--whether the property is occupied or not--or face a fine (as per City Code Article 19, Section 50-46; 50-47). And how much lucre can the city expect to see from slapping its lazy citizens with citations? Uh, $15 per incident.

At least it's a start.

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