Bad Weather Taking Toll On Tulsa Budget

Friday, January 10th 2014, 8:33 pm

The winter weather is taking a toll on Tulsa's streets, the waterlines and on the city budget.

A hard freeze can damage pipes deep underground and create potholes on the surface.

But there's also a hole in the budget, and all those things are related.

Every time the city sends out a pothole crew the time clock is ticking.

They've filled 9,000 potholes in the last month, most of them the result of harsh weather, the snow and ice.

The same people who fill potholes in good weather drive salt trucks and snow plows in bad weather.

That racks up overtime in a city budget that needs to be cut.

Tim McCorkell, Tulsa Streets Manager, said, "The overtime may be an issue as far as street repairs, but as far as emergency response, that's always going to be there."

The newest overtime issue is a rash of 16 water line breaks since Thursday night, mostly related to higher temperatures.

Rick Caruthers, Water Distribution "The way it's working now, when a crew calls in and says we're done with this one, we're sending them to another one."

But the cost of those repairs, including middle of the night overtime, comes out of a separate budget fully funded by city utility payments.

The water line breaks won't bust the regular budget.

The rest of City Hall is dealing with a hiring freeze and other cutbacks.

The streets department has to save $400,000.

They'll do it by leaving vacant positions empty, and that means less work gets done.

"It makes it a little tough to get done things you'd like to do, but we've been short for a while," McCorkell said.

The streets department had $134,000 budgeted in overtime for the year.

They spent $74,000 cleaning up from the windstorm.

They've spent $70,000 so far clearing snow and ice.

That's left them $10,000 in the red, but thanks to a $100,000 state grant, now they have $90,000 leftover.

McCorkell says that's enough to tackle one more major storm so they're hoping for good weather.

The best news for the budget, and for drivers getting around potholes and water line breaks, is that for the next week at least, the weather will improve.

But another arctic blast could really blow a hole in the budget.


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