snow_03-09-16

Local and State Officials Highlight Areas of Improvement at County Council Snow Storm Briefing (VIDEOS)

snow_03-09-16It’s has been more than a month since the historic winter storm buried Montgomery County in snow and on Tuesday, March 8, the County Council held a briefing with state and local officials to review storm response efforts.

Officials estimated that the County spent approximately $40 million on snow removal, or $1 million per inch of snow. Officials also said the blizzard cost the state more than $110 million.

During the briefing, County Councilmembers praised the efforts of State Highway Administration crew members, but also raised questions about the slow response to clearing snow off major roads.

“I do think that SHA’s response on major roads like 355, Old Georgetown Road, East-West Highway was unduly slow and slower than I recall. There were too few lanes open” Councilmember George Leventhal said, “it just was surprising how long it took to open up all lanes of traffic on major state highways.”

Roger Berliner pulled out a binder of 300 emails from residents to highlight concerns. “When you guys fall down on your job it actually comes down on us as well,” Berliner said, “after…waiting as long as they had to wait to get out of their neighborhoods then to get onto Wisconsin Ave. [or] Connecticut Ave. and see the kind of gridlock that was there because those streets weren’t plowed appropriately, just drove people crazy.”

Tom Fountain is a manager with the State Highway Administration and represents a district, which includes Montgomery County. Fountain said that a combination of heavy snow fall on Saturday, Jan. 22, and a delay of equipment coming into the area resulted in the slow response. “I just wish that we could’ve got [our team] the resources to get the job done a little bit earlier and that was key,” Fountain said.

Councilmembers also took particular interest in the County’s issues with delayed response from the 311 Call Center, which was inundated with thousands of phone calls.

“On the 311 issue, I’ll just say this, this is an epic fail in some ways, and I say that because this tells you that is there was a real emergency, [the snowstorm] was predictable, now fast forward to something that’s unpredictable and really bad and possibly unthinkable, our system could not possibly handle it,” Councilmember Marc Elrich said.

The accuracy of the County’s Snow Map also came under fire. Councilmember Nancy Navarro questioned whether or not the map is needed at all.

In response to concerns, Montgomery County Chief Administrative Officer Timothy Firestine said that his department will be conducting an internal review to look into both the 311 Call Center and Snow Map. Firestine has already created two action teams.

Maureen Chowdhury

About Maureen Chowdhury

Maureen Chowdhury is a multimedia journalist with Montgomery Community Media. She can be reached at mchowdhury@mymcmedia.org and on Twitter at @MediaMaureen. Maureen authors the blog Sound Check on MyMCMedia.

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