Tulsa City Councilors Want More Funds For Snow, Ice Removal

Thursday, November 18th 2010, 10:33 am
By: News On 6

Dan Bewley and NewsOn6.com

TULSA, Oklahoma -- Some Tulsa city councilors are fighting Mayor Dewey Bartlett again, this time for money to pay for snow and ice removal. Three councilors say they've found $500,000 to add to the budget.

The mayor's office says it's not needed.

The city council and mayor have been going back and forth since summer over how much money should be spent to clear the roads this winter. On Thursday night, the council could vote on a plan to add more money to the budget.

 It's something you know is going to come, the only questions are how much snow and when will it hit? Once the snow and ice cover the road it's Public Works' job to get everything clear, but that costs money.

This year Public Works wanted $1.4 million for salt and overtime.

Mayor Dewey Bartlett and the City Council negotiated back and forth, and public works eventually got $444,000, 32 percent of what it is asking.

"I don't think we have the luxury nor can we afford not to put 100 percent of the needed resources into keeping the streets passable during snow and ice storms," said Bill Christiansen, Tulsa City Councilor

Current funding would cover about three storm events, According to Councilor Chris Trail. Last year Tulsa had seven winter storm events necessitating a response from Public Works.

Mayor Bartlett's office says that the city has 9,600 tons of salt on hand for the upcoming winter season, more than the 9,153 tons used in last year's winter.

See Chart Of Salt Usage

The City of Tulsa's average salt usage for the past 10 year period is 7,361 tons, according to a City of Tulsa news release.

More About City Of Tulsa Budget

City Councilor Bill Christiansen, Jack Henderson, and Chris Trail say they've found another $500,000 to purchase more salt and pay for overtime. It would come from an unexpected surplus of sales tax revenue.

The councilors say the mayor's statement of 'hoping' for a mild winter isn't the smart way to get ready or winter.

"Instead of hoping, I think we need to prepare for the worst and have enough salt on hand it in the event that you do have a tough winter," Christiansen said.

But the city says it already has enough salt on hand for the winter.

Last year, it used 9,100 tons of salt during the entire winter season, including the Christmas Eve blizzard. City officials say they currently have 9,600 tons in storage, and spending that money for something that's not needed is not wise financial move.

"It would always be great to have more, but with the city and the position of its resources, we're just trying to be as conservative as we can," said Jeff Mulder, Director of Transportation.

Both the city and councilors say public safety is a priority, they just each have different ideas on how to get the city ready for old man winter.

"We are listening to concerns from the Councilors, and we want to reassure citizens that their City will do what is necessary to handle winter storms," Mayor Dewey Bartlett said.

He noted that if it appears Tulsa will have a much harsher than normal winter, Public Works managers will make recommendations for funding emergency salt purchases.

The city council meets Thursday night, and the item is on the agenda. However, the earliest a vote would come is in two weeks.